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Zimbabwe man sues government to stop displaying Robert Mugabe’s portrait in courtrooms and other public places

A CHITUNGWIZA man has filed an urgent chamber application at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) challenging the displaying of President Robert Mugabe’s portrait in the courtroom.

BY CHARLES LAITON

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Richard Mangena made the application after he initially appeared at the Chitungwiza Magistrates’ Court facing an assault charge.

In his application filed under case number CCZ67/16, Mangena cited magistrate Witness Mtetwa, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), acting Prosecutor-General Ray Goba and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents.

He is being represented by Advocate Zvikomborero Chadambuka.

Mangena was arrested and charged with assault on March 7 and when he appeared in court on August 31, he declined to be tried inside a building where Mugabe’s portrait hangs above the magistrate’s chair, saying this violated section 69 of the Constitution.

“This is an application for stay of the proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court while this honourable court determines my application for access and, should the court grant access, my constitutional challenge,” he said.

“The matter is urgent, as I am now at imminent risk of being tried and possibly being sentenced at a time when an application seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the proceedings under which I am being charged is pending in this court.

“I have raised various concerns in my application for access and the draft substantive application annexed thereto, in which I highlight why first respondent’s failure to refer the matter was a violation of my rights under section 56(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and why I believe that there are constitutional infirmities with the presence of the presidential portrait in the courtroom and above the presiding officer.”

Mangena said there was the external dimension which was instrumental to judiciary independence and the maintenance of public confidence in the judiciary system.

“The appearance of independence is indispensable to maintaining public confidence in the judiciary system,” he said.

“For this reason, members of the judiciary are not only prohibited from accepting bequests and gifts which may influence their judicial conduct, but also those that give the appearance of judicial impropriety … therefore, it is my submission that the courts must not only be independent and impartial, but they must be seen to be independent and impartial.”

However, when the magistrate dismissed Mangena’s application on September 5 and ordered his trial to continue, it was then deferred to September 20, where he made an application for adjournment of the trial pending a constitutional determination.

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