ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has accused the Herald of colluding with “forces within the state that do not believe in the rule of law” to demonise the judiciary
The government-controlled news-paper on Tuesday ran a story in which Media and Information Commission (MIC) lawyer Johannes Tomana accused Administrative Court president Michael Majuru of pre-determining the outcome of the legal wrangle between Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) and the MIC.
Tomana was reported as having filed an affidavit concerning Mujuru’s alleged behaviour. The paper claimed that Majuru was being investigated for unethical behaviour regarding the MIC/ANZ dispute.
In a statement, ZLHR director Arnold Tsunga said the allegations against Majuru amounted to a personal attack.
“The suggestions that Mr Majuru has now suddenly prejudged the matter through an informal, incidental and fortuitous communication to a stranger asking for help in a street, is mischievous and calculated to damage the reputation of Mr Majuru in both his personal and professional capacity,” Tsunga said.
He said the over-riding motive was that of maintaining and prolonging the closure of the Daily News and sustaining the institutional attack on the right to freedom of expression.
“This has been achieved since Mr Majuru has been left with no alternative but to recuse himself from the matter. The recusal of Mr Majuru … prolongs the matter and places the next (court) president to deal with the matter under undue pressure,” Tsunga said.
Constitutional law expert and chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Dr Lovemore Madhuku, concurred.
“It a clear case of victimisation of judges and an attempt to influence court decisions,” said Madhuku.
He described Tomana’s behaviour as highly improper and calculated to undermine the judicial system.
Tsunga said state officials were not comfortable with judgements that did not favour them.
“In fact the attack on Mr Majuru is a deliberate reminder to the judiciary by those forces within the state who do not believe in the rule of law that they are at risk if they make rulings that are seen to be against the state or the ruling party,” he said.
Tsunga said given the operating environment a record number of judges of the Supreme Court and High Court bench had resigned since 2000.
“The pattern of events … shows that the state is determined to ‘use the law’ to subvert justice and ensure that the Daily News does not get published again,” he said.
Tsunga said the Supreme Court was now being used to clamp down on people’s rights.
“It is extremely regrettable that the Supreme Court (which in any democracy should be the defender of justice, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms) is constantly referred to as the reason why the state continues to act in the manner that it does in preventing the people of Zimbabwe from enjoying their right to freedom of expression,” he said.
Tsunga said if the MIC lawyer had been genuinely concerned at the conduct of Mr Majuru, his remedy would not have been to rush to the press, but to make an application for Majuru to recuse himself.
“ZLHR views the attack on the Administrative Court and on Mr Majuru by the government-controlled newspaper as contemptuous, unwarranted and calculated to bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
“It is also part of a wider, deliberate, systematic and sustained general attack on the judiciary to manipulate it, reduce its independence and weaken national institutions of protection that are vital for the restoration of the rule of law and democracy,” said Tsunga.