Legal body condemns Zimbabwe Court ruling
SALC says judge's order contravenes global principles
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) condemns the judgment issued by Zimbabwean High Court judge Chinembiri Bhunu on 20 August 2013 in the matter of Tsvangirai v Chairperson of the Electoral Commission and others.
In particular, SALC is alarmed at Judge Bhunu’s order that lawyers acting for Tsvangirai – Lewis Uriri, Alec Muchadehama and Tarisai Mutangi – be subjected to punitive action by the attorney general and prosecuting authority.
“Judge Bhunu makes this outrageous punitive order directed at the lawyers ostensibly to protect the integrity of the judiciary,” said Nicole Fritz, Director of SALC. “But there can be no surer way of bringing the courts into disrepute than by having a judge issue orders in clear contravention of the uniformly recognised and upheld principles protecting the legal profession.”
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers stipulate that “lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.” Furthermore, “lawyers shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court.”
Judge Bhunu’s ire was provoked by the inclusion in the papers submitted before the court by Tsvangirai of the statement that the ‘judiciary is not independent from the executive, and politically, from ZANU PF’ – as well as the uncontroversial claim that President Mugabe appointed numerous judges to the High Court, Supreme Court and Constitutional Court without consulting then Prime Minister Tsvangirai, in violation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the new constitution.
According to Judge Bhunu, these statements amount to an attack on the dignity and integrity of the judiciary.
“Bhunu’s order appears calculated to intimidate lawyers and ensure that those who find themselves in opposition to the new Zimbabwean government will battle to find legal representation, despite constitutional entitlements,” said Fritz. “We call on judge Bhunu to rescind his order and for the judiciary in Zimbabwe to respect the role of lawyers.”