Lawyer said Mugabe wanted to control professional workers


Harare lawyer Sternford Moyo, who was president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe at the time, said President Robert Mugabe had put his ministers under “enormous pressure” to come up with ways to control professional workers and the organisations that represented them including the Law Society.

He told this to a United States embassy official shortly after being released by police after being arrested for allegedly contravening the Public Order and Security Act.

Moyo said Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa had repeatedly told him that he wanted the Law Society’s charter changed so that he had the power to appoint the president, secretary and a majority of the councillors that oversee the organisation.

The Minister appointed only two out of the 12 councillors. Moyo said he told Chinamasa that he would resist such a move.

Shortly after Moyo said this, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo came out with a statement saying there was an “urgent need” to amend the Legal Practitioners’ Act, which governs the operations of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2002-06-13 12:02

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001418








E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2012






Classified By: Political Officer Todd Faulk for reasons 1.5 (b)

and (d)


1. (C) Summary: On June 11, Law Society of Zimbabwe

President Sternford Moyo described to poloff in detail his

June 3-5 detention by Zimbabwe Republic Police and the

farcical court proceedings that resulted in his release. The

Law Society Secretary, Wilbert Mapombere, was also arrested

and held during this period, and on June 4, police arrested

and interrogated the entire staff of the Law Society for

about four hours. Moyo stated that the police clearly did

not have a case, the evidence of his supposed involvement in

planning mass action with the opposition MDC and British High

Commission was fabricated, and that the Government caused

High Court Judge President Paddington Garwe, who oversaw his

case, to keep Moyo and Mapombere on remand in spite of the

lack of evidence. There are a number of reasons the

Government of Zimbabwe is trying to intimidate him now, Moyo

speculated, including his resistance to a planned Government

takeover of the Law Society and his plans to speak out in

international fora on the deterioration of the rule of law in

Zimbabwe. End summary.



The First Arrest



2. (C) On June 11, poloff met with Law Society of Zimbabwe

(LSZ) President Sternford Moyo in the offices of his law firm

Scanlen & Holderness to discuss his June 3-5 detention and

the reasons behind it. Moyo is one of the most respected

lawyers in Zimbabwe and through the LSZ, which represents

Zimbabwe’s legal profession, he has been a steadfast defender

of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. In the early afternoon of

June 3, police arrested Law Society Secretary Wilbert

Mapombere. While Moyo was attempting to arrange legal

representation for Mapombere, a squad of riot police burst

into his law firm office with a search warrant and said he

was under arrest for violating the Public Order and Security

Act (POSA). Moyo protested that their warrant was very vague

and their search would violate attorney-client privilege;

they searched his office anyway, but did not find anything of

interest. The police then took Moyo to his residence in the

suburb of Kambanji, presented another search warrant (that

had the wrong street number on it), and searched those

premises. There, the police took a paper Moyo had presented

in April to the SADC Lawyers Association conference in

Livingstone, Zambia. The police officers then conveyed Moyo

to Harare Central Prison, where he briefly spoke to several

lawyers who were not given the specific reasons for his

arrest. Police inspectors presented to Moyo two letters, one

supposedly signed by Mapombere and addressed to the British

High Commission, and another written to Moyo by MDC

Secretary-General Welshman Ncube. The letter attributed to



Moyo, which was poorly written, in the third person, and

filled with grammatical and spelling errors, had him planning

to organize “peaceful mass action” with the support of the

MDC. (Note: The MDC and British High Commission in Harare

have both patently denied ever writing or receiving such

letters and accused the GOZ of fabricating them. End note.)

In a statement to the police, Moyo denied the authenticity of

the letters and noted the section of the POSA the police said

he had supposedly violated did not exist. The inspectors

eventually agreed there was no reasonable cause for

continuing to detain Moyo, and released him about 10:30 pm

that evening, and Moyo returned home.



The Second Arrest



3. (C) After midnight the same evening, police officers

returned to Moyo’s home and said they had been instructed to

detain him again. In protest, Moyo called Attorney-General

Andrew Chigovera, who contacted Police Commissioner Augustine

Chihuri. After about an hour, Chihuri called back and said

the officers who gave the orders could not be reached and

there was nothing he could do. The police took Moyo to

Highlands police station, where his jacket, socks and shoes

were taken and he was placed in a smelly, unheated cell with

nine other prisoners. When he asked if the water covering

the floor was clean, he was told it was the overflow from the

broken toilet. The one blanket in the cell smelled of urine

and was covered with lice and fleas. The cold and the stench

prevented Moyo from getting any sleep. At about 7 am, June

4, he was transferred back to Harare Central Prison, where he

was booked. Around 3 pm, police took him, Mapombere and the

five staff members of the Law Society (who were arrested

earlier in the afternoon) to Lake Chivero, a wilderness park

25 km west of Harare. On the way, police officers told the

staff members they were going to a park filled with lions,

apparently in an attempt to frighten them into saying

something incriminating against Moyo or Mapombere. Upon

arrival, the detainees were separated and four police

officers were assigned to each staff member, and they were

each taken to a different area of the park. They were

interrogated about Moyo’s and Mapombere’s activities for four

hours, but none of them said anything incriminating. At

about 8 pm, they were all returned to Harare, where the staff

members were released; Moyo and Mapombere were taken to

separate police stations for another night in jail.



Courtroom Antics



4. (C) In the morning of June 5, Moyo–who had not been

offered food or water during his detention or given access to

his attorneys since his first arrest–was taken to the High

Court for a hearing. During the proceedings, the prosecutor

complained to Justice Garwe (also the Judge President of the

High Court) that the police had consistently refused to give

him reasons for the detention of the Law Society leaders.

(Note: Moyo heard later that Garwe had repeatedly delayed the

hearing to give the police and the Attorney-General’s office

more time to come up with evidence and that Supreme Court

Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a known ruling party supporter,

the Justice Ministry Permanent Secretary and another GOZ

official were seen entering Garwe’s chambers just before the

hearing. End note.) After Moyo’s attorneys presented their

application for release, the prosecutor had no affidavit to

challenge it. Garwe chastised the police for failing to

provide reasons for Moyo’s detention, remarked that he found

their evidential letters “defective” (see paragraph 2), and

stated that even though the police mistakenly charged Moyo

under a nonexistent clause of the POSA, he believed he knew

which clause they meant. Despite all these failings of the

State’s case, Garwe found, incredibly, that Moyo’s detention

was lawful and that the letters presented by the police were

grounds for further investigation. Those in attendance were

so appalled that no one stood as Garwe left the courtroom.

Even the police investigators, who expected the case to be

dismissed, were aghast. As the State presented no official

challenge, and the 48-hour limit for detention was up, Moyo

and Mapombere were free to go. Only after the

Attorney-General contacted Moyo’s lawyers later in the day

was an arrangement made to put Moyo and Mapombere on remand

(bail). They both appeared in magistrate’s court on June 6,

when they were each required to pay Z$20,000 (US$43) bail and

surrender their passports. They will be on remand until

August 1.



Several Reasons Behind the Intimidation



5. (C) Moyo elaborated on a number of possible reasons the

GOZ has chosen to try to intimidate and harass him now, even

though the Law Society has routinely spoken out in the past

against the erosion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe:


a) The Justice Ministry has hatched a plan to indoctrinate

all prosecutors, judges and magistrates in the history of the

anti-colonial struggle. The plan would have Army instructors

setting up courses at the Judicial College, a heretofore

independent institution that trains mainly magistrates in

legal procedures. As a member of the Judicial College board,

Moyo opposed this plan and said the Law Society would

consider a legal challenge to it if it went forward. Garwe

and Chidyausiku, who are also board members, replied that

they would be willing to hold the courses outside the

Judicial College, but would insist on the indoctrination. As

a counteroffer, Moyo proposed to have members of the Law

Society teach the courses. Chidyausiku, who is the board

chairman, said this sounded like an American-funded “Trojan

horse” designed to frustrate the Third Chimurenga and refused

the offer.


b) Moyo told poloff that all government ministers are under

enormous pressure from Mugabe to come up with ways to gain

control of professional workers and the organizations that

represent them, such as the LSZ. Justice Minister Patrick

Chinamasa has repeatedly told Moyo that he wants the Law

Society’s charter changed so that he has the power to appoint

the president, secretary and a majority of the councilors

that oversee the organization. Currently, he appoints only

two out of the 12 councilors. Moyo told Chinamasa that he

would resist such a move. Shortly after Moyo said this,

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo came out with a statement

(in April) saying there was an “urgent need” to amend the

Legal Practitioners’ Act, which governs the operations of the

LSZ. Police have also gone to local banks in an attempt to

freeze LSZ assets; the banks have thus far refused to

cooperate without a court order.


c) Last month, the LSZ released its annual report, which was

critical of the Government’s erosion of the rule of law, the

Constitution’s allowance for the President to pack the

Supreme Court, and a number of Supreme Court decisions that

demonstrate that the highest court in the land can no longer

be counted on to protect Zimbabweans’ basic human rights.


d) The GOZ wants to prevent articulate speakers from

criticizing GOZ policy in international fora. Moyo believes

the GOZ, in part, wanted an excuse to seize his passport so

he could not travel this week to Durban, where he was to

present a paper on international press freedom to the

International Bar Association. He was also due to go to

Montreal later this year to help vet legal officers for the

bar of the International Criminal Court. Chinamasa has

called Moyo several times to question his patriotism over the

release of damning papers and reports. “It is precisely

because I am a patriot that I have to speak out about what is

happening,” Moyo told Chinamasa.






6. (C) We fear the arrest and detention of the LSZ leaders

is a precedent for an expanded campaign of GOZ intimidation

against Zimbabwean NGOs. Now that the MDC has been

effectively stymied in the aftermath of the March

presidential election, the GOZ may be turning more of its

attention to outspoken civil society organizations. Any one

of the reasons Moyo mentioned would be enough to begin

harassing Moyo, but all of them combined present the GOZ with

a compelling reason to make a greater effort to hamper LSZ

activities. If the GOZ cannot bend Moyo to its wishes or

take control of the organization, it may attempt to close it

down altogether. Other active NGOs that speak out against

the GOZ’s increasingly repressive tactics, like the Legal

Resources Foundation, the Amani Trust, and Zimbabwe Lawyers

for Human Rights, are prime candidates for similar treatment.

With the judiciary under firmer GOZ control, as seen in

Garwe’s blatantly partisan handling of the sloppily contrived

case against Moyo, we can expect the GOZ to try more of these

actions in the future. The GOZ remains bent on cowing anyone

who dares to resist its tyrannical edicts. End comment.




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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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