By Mary Taruvinga
HIGH Court judge, Happius Zhou has set aside a ruling by Harare magistrate, Ngoni Nduna barring top human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa from representing investigative journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono who is facing trial for violence incitement.
Nduna was also barred from presiding over Chin’ono’s trial after Mtetwa had successfully sought his recusal claiming the magistrate had developed personal interest in her client’s case.
The journalist is being accused of violence incitement.
The ruling was handed down Tuesday morning following an appeal by Mtetwa and Chin’ono challenging Nduna’s decision.
“Justice Zhou sets aside magistrate Nduna’s disqualification of Beatrice Mtetwa and instead disqualifies magistrate Nduna from presiding over Chin’ono’s criminal trial and orders that a new magistrate presides over,” the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) announced Tuesday.
In barring Mtetwa from representing Chin’ono July this year, Nduna had accused Mtetwa of abandoning professional conduct.
He accused Mtetwa of writing a letter to the High Court registrar expressing her emotions on the case and also authoring Facebook posts to do with Chin’ono’s case.
Nduna also wanted the lawyer to be held in contempt of court by the Prosecutor General with his full judgement also availed to the law Society of Zimbabwe so it could investigate her conduct.
The magistrate had also ruled that Mtetwa scandalised the courts by portraying Chin’ono’s arrest as an abduction by state security.
He said the arrest was unnecessarily portrayed as an abduction and was posted to the whole world by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in a bid to spark world outrage.
The state, led by Whisper Mabhaudhi, had applied for Mtetwa’s recusal over her alleged unprofessional conduct.
“The picture portrayed (in the post by ZLHR) a biased justice system and the world was invited to an outrage over abuse of human rights,” he said.
He said a Facebook Post on a page – Beatrice Mtetwa@The Rule of Law – scandalised and undermined public confidence in the courts.
The state submitted that the posts showed that Mtetwa was the author and owner of the Facebook page.
He said the coming of the page carrying her name into existence and the publication of the posts showed she authorised it.
But Zhou ruled that Nduna has no powers to bar Mtetwa from representing Chin’ono emphasising that individuals have a right to attorney of choice.