The Supreme Court on Friday 4 June 2021 ordered the immediate release from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison of two political prisoners, Last Tamai Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere, where they had been detained since 2016 after they were convicted and sentenced to serve 20 years for allegedly murdering a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer.
Maengahama and Madzokere, who were represented by Beatrice Mtetwa and Charles Kwaramba of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, were each sentenced to serve 20 years at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on 12 December 2016 after they were convicted by then High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu of murder with actual intent as defined in section 47 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The two together with Yvonne Musarurwa were convicted in 2016 for murdering Petros Mutedza, a ZRP Inspector on 29 May 2011. However, Musarurwa was released from prison in March 2018 under a presidential pardon.
Phenias Nhatarikwa, who was convicted as an accessory after the fact to public violence as defined in section 206 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act was fined US$500 or in default of payment, three months imprisonment.
Maengahama, Madzokere, Musarurwa and Nhatarikwa’s lawyers filed an appeal at the Supreme Court in 2016 seeking an order to pronounce them as not guilty and acquitted and to set aside the sentences imposed against them.
In their application which was opposed by the state, Mtetwa and Kwaramba argued that Justice Bhunu erred and misdirected himself when he failed to properly apply the law and discharge Maengahama, Madzokere, Musarurwa and Nhatarikwa as he was obliged to at the close of the state case when no evidence justifying their placement on their defence had been led and in doing so denied them a fair trial with the result that the conviction and sentence must be vacated.
Mtetwa and Kwaramba contended that Justice Bhunu erred and misdirected himself in finding Maengahama, Madzokere and Musarurwa guilty on the basis of the doctrine of common purpose when in law the doctrine is no longer part of Zimbabwean law.
The human rights lawyers also argued that the High Court Judge erred and misdirected himself when he convicted Nhatarikwa as an accessory after the fact to the crime of public violence when there is no actual perpetrator convicted of public violence during trial.
On Friday 4 June 2021, Supreme Court Judges Justice of Appeal Rita Makarau, Justice of Appeal Susan Mavangira and Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza set aside their conviction by Justice Bhunu and acquitted them after ruling that they were not guilty of committing murder.
Justice Makarau, Mavangira and Deputy Chief Justice Gwaunza also quashed and set aside the sentences imposed on Maengahama, Madzokere, Musarurwa and Nhatarikwa and ordered the immediate release of Maengahama and Madzokere, who had remained incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights