Timba forced to postpone media conference


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Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Jameson Timba was forced to postpone a proposed all stakeholders’ media conference after the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe announced that it was pulling out because of the re-detention of journalists Jestina Mukoko and Andrisson Manyere.

MAZ said the re-detention of Mukoko and Manyere was “an apparent abuse of the judicial process which undermines the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement”.

Timba said he was postponing the conference because of the boycott by important civil society groups.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE367, DRAMATIC SETBACK: ZIM ABDUCTEES SENT BACK TO JAIL

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

09HARARE367

2009-05-05 15:23

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO6609

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0367/01 1251523

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 051523Z MAY 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4442

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2801

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2922

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1365

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2185

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2550

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2970

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5411

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2094

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000367

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2019

TAGS: ASEC KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL ZI

SUBJECT: DRAMATIC SETBACK: ZIM ABDUCTEES SENT BACK TO JAIL

 

REF: A. HARARE 332

B. HARARE 283

C. HARARE 218

D. HARARE 29

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Katherine Dhanani for reason 1.4 (d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) On May 5, Magistrate Catherine Chimwanda remanded 15

individuals, including prominent human rights activist

Jestina Mukoko, to prison pending their trials, which are

currently scheduled for June and July 2009. Mukoko and others

were abducted between October and December 2008, tortured,

accused of crimes including terrorism, and were subsequently

released over a period of several months. On May 4, the

Attorney General’s office formally charged the 15 and asked

the court to revoke bail previously granted, in contravention

of the political agreement between the three major political

parties, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, and the Joint

Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) that secured

their release within the last several months. Defense

lawyers believed the abductees’ remand was ordered by Tomana

in an attempt to undermine the transitional government. END

SUMMARY.

 

————————————–

Formal Charges Lead to Bail Revocation

————————————–

 

2. (U) During a routine remand hearing on May 4, 15

individuals previously abducted and detained (ref D) — and

released on bail during the last several months — were

indicted for various crimes, including recruiting armed

insurgents and bombing police stations. (NOTE: Contrary to

press reports, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights informed us

that the number of individuals in question was 15 rather than

18 as reported in the news media. END NOTE.) During the

proceeding, Magistrate Catherine Chimwanda heard arguments

from the Attorney General’s office to revoke bail of all 15

individuals. (NOTE: Under normal court procedure in

Zimbabwe, bail is automatically revoked upon indictment, and

defendants must re-apply for bail. END NOTE.) Defense

attorneys for Mukoko and the others argued that their clients

had been released on bail as a result of a political

agreement between the Attorney General’s office and JOMIC

with the understanding they would remain at liberty until the

conclusion of their trials. Defense lawyers had previously

confirmed this arrangement verbally with Mr. Tokwe of the

Attorney General’s office and asked for time to present

witnesses from JOMIC and Mr. Tokwe to testify to the

arrangement. Magistrate Chimwanda agreed to continue the

hearing to May 5.

 

3. (U) On May 5, Magistrate Chimwanda ruled that she did not

have the jurisdiction to consider the issue of bail and that

the case should be referred to the High Court. She also

refused to postpone the hearing, as she had indicated on May

4 she would do, to allow Mr. Tokwe or members of JOMIC to

testify. (NOTE: No one from JOMIC was present, as its

members were either in the weekly Cabinet meeting or out of

the country. END NOTE.) She read a carefully worded

Qthe country. END NOTE.) She read a carefully worded

statement that she had the jurisdiction to detain the group

in state custody until their trial dates in June and July

(ref A). Immediately after reading her decision, police

escorted the 12 detainees present to the court’s holding

cells. Three of the accused, journalist Shadreck Manyere,

Chris Dhlamini and Ghandi Mudzingwa, remain in Avenues Clinic

where they continue to receive care for injuries sustained

during their detention.

 

HARARE 00000367 002 OF 002

 

 

 

4. (C) Lawyers familiar with Chimwanda said she is normally a

balanced and fair magistrate, but she did “not appear to be

herself,” according to lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. Another

lawyer, Otto Saki, told us that May 5’s short proceeding and

the script she read were highly unusual; he did not believe

she had written the judgment herself.

 

——————————————— —-

“Agreement will not work as long as Tomana is AG”

——————————————— —-

 

5. (C) Before the hearing on May 5, Mtetwa told us that

Tomana continues to pursue cases against Deputy Prime

Minister Arthur Mutambara, Constitution and Parliamentary

Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga, and other MDC leaders.

Mtetwa believes the Attorney General is using his position to

erode the rule of law and to politicize certain cases, like

Mukoko’s. Mtetwa informed us that a contact in the AG’s

office told her yesterday that Tomana continues to pursue a

contempt of court case against her, following her involvement

in defending Roy Bennett, the MDC nominee for Deputy

Agriculture Minister (ref C). Mtetwa and other lawyers are

increasingly pessimistic about Zimbabwe’s immediate political

future. Mtetwa opined the “agreement will not work as long

as Tomana is Attorney General.”

 

6. (SBU) The detainees’ lawyers filed bail applications in

the High Court on May 5, which are scheduled to be heard on

May 7.

 

————————–

Media Conference Postponed

————————–

 

7. (U) The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), a consortium of

media-related civil society organizations, issued a press

release announcing its members are pulling out of the May 6-9

All Stakeholders Media Conference scheduled to take place in

Kariba. MAZ based its decision on the court proceedings and

re-detention of Mukoko and Manyere, which it described as “an

apparent abuse of the judicial process which undermines the

spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement.” With

the boycott of important civil society groups, Deputy

Minister of Information Jameson Timba (MDC-M) announced

today that he will postpone the conference.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

8. (C) Attorney General Tomana, under the Zimbabwean

constitution, enjoys an independent status that makes his

removal, except on grounds of malfeasance, all but

impossible. The Attorney General’s action in these cases

demonstrates that his continued presence as Attorney General

is a major obstacle to reestablishment of te rule of law and

to efforts to build trust or begin reconciliation between

ZANU-PF, its partners in government and civil society. END

COMMENT.

 

DHANANI

(2 VIEWS)

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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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