HomeLettersTreason trial article was misleading, mischievous

Treason trial article was misleading, mischievous



THE article headed “Tsvangirai treason judgement blocked” (Zimbabwe Independent, July 30) is misleading and mischievous.



“>Of concern is the fact that at no stage did the paper attempt to verify the correct position with either the registrar or even the judge himself. For the benefit of the public, the correct position is as follows:


The trial in this matter took place over a period of 14 months. It was a lengthy trial. At the conclusion of the trial, judgement was reserved to enable the court to look at the evidence. The procedure is for the judge and the assessors to look at all the evidence and come to a decision on the facts. The judge and the assessors use the record they would have prepared in long hand during the course of the trial. In practice the court does not use a transcript because this normally takes many months before it is available.


In this case, the judge and the assessors met and a provisional date for the handing down of judgement was agreed upon. It had been anticipated that the court was going to be in a position to hand down judgement by the end of the second session of the High Court and for that reason July 29 was provisionally given as the date on which judgement might be handed down. It must be stressed that the date was provisional.

In the intervening period it became clear that the notes of the proceedings taken by the assessors during the trial were lacking in detail. The judge had his own complete handwritten record of the evidence.


In these circumstances, the judge and the assessors agreed that the provisional date previously set be extended to enable the official transcript of the proceedings to be made available to the assessors so that, after going through the record, the assessors and the judge can then discuss the evidence in detail and come to a conclusion.


The suggestion by the paper that the presiding judge has already prepared a judgement is, to say the least, most irresponsible. No judgement has been prepared. Such a judgement will only be prepared once a discussion has taken place between him and the assessors. Nor is it true that the assessors have blocked the passing of judgement.


For the record it must be stated that the suggestion that a transcript be made available to the assessors was actually made by the judge himself and accepted by the assessors for the reasons already given.


The remark that “assessors are normally given tapes and transcripts to enable them to make informed assessments” is equally incorrect.

Courts in Zimbabwe rely on handwritten notes and not transcripts to reach a decision.


Transcripts are usually prepared for appeal purposes long after the conclusion of the matter. The transcript in this case became available earlier than is usually the case because the trial was a protracted one.

The trial judge is relying on his handwritten notes and not the transcript. In the light of the fact that this was a lengthy trial and that the assessors’ notes were scanty, a decision was taken that transcripts be made available to the assessors after which the judge and the assessors would then meet and discuss the evidence and come to a conclusion.


Only after this would the judgement then be prepared and handed down.


Charles Nyatanga,

Master/Registrar/Sheriff,

High Court of Zimbabwe.

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