By Robert Tapfumaneyi
HUNDREDS of placard waving lawyers Tuesday staged a march within the Harare CBD demanding the restoration of the rule of law in the country.
This comes as the state has taken a tough stance towards hundreds of those arrested for recent violent anti-government protests which rocked Harare, Bulawayo and a few other urban centres in the country.
Lawyers feel there is a hidden hand in the continued denial of bail on those accused of the offences.
There was traffic congestion along the busy Samora Machel Avenue as the legal practitioners marched from Zimbabwe Law Society (ZLS) office along Kwame Nkrumah to Mashonganyika Building, which houses the Supreme Court, to hand over their petition to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The petition was received by JSC secretary Walter Chikwanha.
Over a dozen anti-riot police details were deployed at the Supreme Court.
Some of the placards were written “We Demand Return to The Rule of Law”, “Justice Hurried is Justice Denied”, “Free our Judiciary”, “#Justice Not Malice”, “’Riberate’ Our Courts From Army” and “Respect Separation of Powers”.
Speaking to journalists soon after delivering the petition, prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said they were demanding the upholding of the law by authorities.
“The petition we have just handed is asking for restoration of the rule of law in the country, for respect of our constitution, in particular, all rights associated with trials,” said Mtetwa, who is also a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights board member.
“In this case, in reference to the current prosecution (of protesters) which are being fast tracked without pre-trial procedures being followed with lawyers being denied access to clients, with some protesters injured being denied medication and generally, trials that are being conducted outside what is regarded as fair and impartial justice.”
The lawyers also questioned why all magistrates who have traditionally respected the rule of law in the country through their judgements were now strangely behaving the differently.
They said it could not be a coincidence that all of them were refusing to hear bail applications by arrested protesters.
Said Mtetwa, “As lawyers, we are saying no to dragnet arrest and no to over detention of minors.
“Our petition is also demanding that no to trampling of the right to a fair trial.”
She hinted on the possible withdrawal of their services from the courts in protest.
“There has been a feeling that…we might be sanitising a process that is not good,” she said.