Marry Mubaiwa Murder Trial: Lawyer Mtetwa accuses State of introducing “animal farm doctrine” as VP Chiwenga testifies in camera

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By Mary Taruvinga

Harare magistrate, Feresi Chakanyuka blocked the media from following proceedings in a case Marry Mubaiwa is accused of attempting to kill Vice President Constantino Chiwenga when he was hospitalised in South Africa.

Journalists been following the case from Mubaiwa’s initial court appearance but were Thursday barred after Chiwenga came to testify as the main witness.

He is expected to be the last witness before the State closes its case.

Prosecutor Lancelot Mutsokoti applied for the matter to be heard in camera, submitting that Chiwenga’s rights should be protected.

“It is common cause that the next witness is one of the sitting VPs of Zimbabwe. This application is made to protect the dignity and security of that office,” said the prosecutor.

He added, “It is desirable that this witness be allowed to testify in camera. There exist security risks to this witness if he is compelled to testify in open court. However, if he is allowed to testify in camera, his security detail will have the advantage to secure him during his testimony and after. It’s in the interest of justice that he be allowed to testify in camera.”

Beatrice Mtetwa representing Mubaiwa argued that the matter should be heard in an open court because it is a matter of public interest and was being heard in an open court all along.

“The prosecution is inviting you to introduce into our criminal justice system an animal farm type of doctrine where some animals are more equal than others.

“This case has been about the privacy of the complainant and accused from the onset and the State allowed that privacy to be violated by having the matter be in open court.

Mtetwa said if Mutsokoti was sincere that it was about the privacy of both parties, he would’ve had the matter in camera from the beginning.

“Section 3 of the Constitution deals with the founding values and principles of the Constitution.

“Equality of all human beings is guaranteed. It does not matter if one is the VP, a stripper, or the discarded ex-spouse.

“Those founding values should be seen to be applicable particularly when the powerful such as the complainant are involved.

“There can be no greater equality than subjecting the VP to the same treatment as everyone else. It is because he is VP that he must testify in public as has all the other witnesses,” said the lawyer.

The top lawyer also said it would be a breach of a fundamental right to curtail the media’s right to freely practice their profession by denying them to follow the proceedings as they always have been.

She also said it would be a violation of Mubaiwa’s fundamental rights to subject her to two processes where her privacy is subjected to the public but when it comes to the complainant he has superior rights.

“If it is that way then we should just throw away the constitution.

“The complainant is not a vulnerable witness who needs protection.

“There is no basis for the exclusion of the public as they have been heard in public. We ask the court not to introduce class justice into our criminal justice system,” she said.

Chakanyuka however upheld the State’s application ruling that the right to protection is not absolute.

“Section 69 provides that everyone is entitled to a fair and public trial.

“However, this right is not absolute. The court can use its powers when it sees it necessary.

“By virtue of the witness office, his privacy must be protected. There is no prejudice will suffer if the witness testifies in camera,” said the magistrate before granting the application.