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Government said MDC could not hire South African lawyer

The government denied a request by the Movement for Democratic Change to hire a South African lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett to represent party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in his challenge of the presidential election results.

The MDC required clearance from the Ministry of Justice to hire a lawyer from outside the country.

Reports said the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice argued that the legal challenge was not so complex as to require the services of a legal practitioner from outside the country because there were plenty of senior counsels in the country.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 02HARARE1453, ZIMBABWE GOVERNMENT BANS SOUTH AFRICAN LAWYER FROM

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE1453

2002-06-19 12:15

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

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 HARARE 001453

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/19/2012

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC EAID ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE GOVERNMENT BANS SOUTH AFRICAN LAWYER FROM

ASSISTING MDC LEGAL CHALLENGE TO ELECTION

 

 

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

and (d)

 

1. (SBU) The June 19 edition of the independent “Daily News”

reported that the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) has denied MDC

President Morgan Tsvangirai’s request to have renowned South

African attorney Jeremy Gauntlett represent him in the MDC’s

legal challenge to the March presidential election.

According to the article and embassy sources, for a senior

attorney or advocate from outside the country to argue cases

in Zimbabwe, the Minister of Justice (MOJ) must grant an

exemption certificate in order for the trial to proceed. In

Gauntlett’s case, the Ministry of Justice permsec argued that

the legal challenge “is not so complex as to require the

services of a legal practitioner from outside Zimbabwe. The

country has, in fact, a number of Senior Counsels who can

effectively represent your client,” the article quoted. The

permsec also stated that the MDC should obtain a commitment

from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for the forex to pay for

the services of the South African attorney. (Comment: The

Reserve Bank, which has a long waiting list for forex, would

most certainly not give it to the MDC. This would increase

the Zim dollar cost to the MDC by about ten times if it went

to the parallel market. End comment.)

 

2. (C) Gandi Mudzingwa, Tsvangirai’s principal assistant,

told poloff that Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa has

decided to make a political issue out the case. After

consulting with the MDC’s lawyers, Mudzingwa believed that

the only issue is whether or not Gauntlett is registered to

practice law in Zimbabwe. However, according to the

embassy’s political assistant, who was a practicing attorney

in Zimbabwe, the Legal Practitioners’ Act is clear on

stipulating that it is entirely up to the Justice Minister to

decide whether or not to grant an exemption to foreign

attorneys. If Gauntlett is registered here, then MOJ

permission is not necessary. However, if he is not

registered, then the most he could do is draft papers and

give free advice and instructions to the MDC’s local

attorneys. He could not sit on the bench in court, argue the

case before the judge, or be named on any documents. He

would not be entitled to legal fees under the law, either,

according to our assistant. Furthermore, registering to

practice law in Zimbabwe is a lengthy and cumbersome

process–it requires sitting for five exams–and there are

not many foreign attorneys who have done it. It is not clear

whether Gauntlett is registered in Zimbabwe, but we presume

that he is not since the MDC applied for an exemption with

the High Court.

 

3. (C) Comment: Anyone intending to pay Gauntlett for his

services in the MDC’s legal challenge is on shaky legal

ground. It might be possible for Gauntlett to agree to

provide pro bono services in the case, but given the

restrictions described above on Gauntlett’s ability to

operate in Zimbabwe, he may be more apt to offer limited free

advice in any case. The MDC’s options appear limited since

there are not many South African attorneys registered in

Zimbabwe, and local senior counsels are subject to

intimidation and harassment. Since the MOJ must grant

exemptions to foreign attorneys on a case-by-case basis, and

for only a limited period of time, the GOZ could repeatedly

use this tactic to tilt in its favor the legal challenge

playing field. End comment.

 

SULLIVAN

(219 VIEWS)

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