By Robert Tapfumaneyi
CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba has commended rights lawyers for taking the burden of providing legal representation to over a thousand locals arrested for offences related to recent anti-government protests that rocked Harare, Bulawayo and parts of the country.
This comes amid reports that one member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in Bulawayo is representing 20 violence suspects arrested over the anti-government skirmishes of last month.
“The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) must be commended for taking up these cases. It worked tirelessly and it did its best in these extraordinary circumstances,” Malaba told journalists in Harare Friday.
“The Chief Justice noted from the acting chief magistrate’s reports that ZLHR appears to be over-stretched in dealing with these matters.
“A classic example is what happened in Bulawayo where one legal practitioner has taken up 20 different cases and these cases were remanded to the same date to the 31st January 2019 for trial.”
The country’s top most judge was however quick to caution that the handling of 20 matters by a single lawyer could frustrate the ends of justice instead of achieving its intended purpose.
“On the other hand,” Malaba said, “to give different dates to all these cases to accommodate one legal practitioner may end up frustrating the ends of justice.”
He encouraged Zimbabwean lawyers to help reduce the burden that is on the shoulders of the rights based lawyers group.
The Chief Justice said up to 1 055 cases related to the recent violence were handled by the country’s courts.
Of these, 48 adults were granted bail while those tried and convicted were 80.
Those acquitted were 66 while those denied bail were 995.
Malaba said “12 juveniles were released into the custody of their parents, guardians or Social Welfare officers on their appearance in court”.
He was quick to acknowledge the need for “speedy trials in accordance with the constitution” on those who have remained in custody while promising to provide more magistrates to deal with the outstanding cases.
This comes after Zimbabwean lawyers have raised alarm over alleged political interference with the country’s courts to deny fair trials and freedoms on those accused of taking part in the worst civil unrest since the 1998 food riots.