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Tsvangirai case referred to Supreme Court

High Court judge Moses Chinhengo on 7 May 2001 referred the case of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai to the Supreme Court at the request of his lawyer Chris Andersen.

Tsvangirai was being charged under the Law and Order Maintenance Act with terrorism and sabotage and with inciting public violence after his comments at a rally that President Robert Mugabe should go peacefully otherwise he would be removed violently.

Andersen argued that the case should be referred to the Supreme Court because the law under which Tsvangirai was being charged was not consistent with the country’s constitution because it violated the guarantee of freedom of expression.

Prosecutor Nathaniel Sibanda said the trial should start immediately because there was need to make it clear that calling for the violent overthrow of a lawfully-elected leader was not permissible in a democratic society.

Judge Chinhengo said he was referring the matter to the Supreme Court because there was need for the country’s highest court to rule once and for all on the constitutionality of the Law and Order Maintenance Act.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 01HARARE1536, CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST MDC PRESIDENT TSVANGIRAI REFERRED

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

01HARARE1536

2001-05-07 16:01

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.

 

071601Z May 01

 

 

CONFIDENTIAL     PTO6314

 

PAGE 01       HARARE 01536 071552Z

ACTION AF-00

 

INFO LOG-00   NP-00   AID-00   ACQ-00   CIAE-00 INL-00   DINT-00

DODE-00 SRPP-00 DS-00   EB-00   EUR-00   FBIE-00 VC-00

H-01     TEDE-00 INR-00   IO-00   L-00     VCE-00   AC-01

DCP-01   NSAE-00 OIC-02   OMB-01   OPIC-01 PA-00   PM-00

PRS-00   ACE-00   P-00     SP-00   IRM-00   SSO-00   STR-00

TRSE-00 USIE-00 PMB-00   DSCC-00 PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00

NFAT-00 SAS-00     /010W

——————E84CAD 071553Z /38

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8811

INFO NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE

SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

AMEMBASSY NAIROBI

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 001536

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR BISA WILLIAMS

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL. 05/07/11

TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINS ZI

SUBJECT: CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST MDC PRESIDENT TSVANGIRAI REFERRED

TO SUPREME COURT

 

REF: HARARE 767

 

CONFIDENTIAL

 

PAGE 02       HARARE 01536 071552Z

 

CLASSIFIED BY CHARGE D’AFFAIRES EARL IRVING. REASONS: 1.5

(B) AND (D).

 

1. (U) MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (MDC) PRESIDENT MORGAN

TSVANGIRAI APPEARED BEFORE HIGH COURT JUDGE MOSES CHINHENGO ON

 

SIPDIS

MAY 7 TO FACE CHARGES — UNDER THE COLONIAL-ERA LAW AND ORDER

MAINTENANCE ACT — OF TERRORISM AND SABOTAGE AND OF INCITING

PUBLIC VIOLENCE. AS REPORTED REFTEL, THE CHARGES REFER TO

TSVANGIRAI’S STATEMENT AT A POLITICAL RALLY LAST SEPTEMBER 30

 

SIPDIS

THAT PRESIDENT MUGABE WOULD BE REMOVED VIOLENTLY IF HE DID NOT

CHOOSE TO GO PEACEFULLY. THE STANDING ROOM ONLY CROWD INCLUDED

SENIOR MDC OFFICIALS, FOREIGN AND LOCAL JOURNALISTS, EMBASSY’S

POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF AND HIS FSN ASSISTANT, AND A RANGE OF

OTHER INTERESTED OBSERVERS. DURING MOST OF THE HOUR-LONG

HEARING, A GROUP OF APPROXIMATELY 100 MOSTLY YOUNG MEN STOOD ON

THE STREET OUTSIDE CHANTING PRO-MDC SLOGANS, UNDER THE WATCHFUL

EYE OF A LARGE CONTINGENT OF RIOT POLICE.

 

2. (U) THE HEARING DID NOT DEAL WITH THE SUBSTANCE OF THE

CHARGES. RATHER, JUDGE CHINHENGO FOCUSED EXCLUSIVELY ON THE

REQUEST BY TSVANGIRAI’S LEAD ATTORNEY, CHRIS ANDERSEN, THAT THE

CASE BE REFERRED TO THE SUPREME COURT FOR A DETERMINATION OF

WHETHER THE LAW AND ORDER MAINTENANCE ACT (LOMA) IS CONSISTENT

WITH ZIMBABWE’S CONSTITUTION. ANDERSEN CONTENDED THAT THE LOMA

ARTICLES UNDER WHICH TSVANGIRAI IS CHARGED — 51 AND 58 —

VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION BY IGNORING THE GUARANTEE OF FREEDOM OF

EXPRESSION, BY PLACING THE ONUS ON THE DEFENDANT TO PROVE HIS

INNOCENCE, AND BY DISREGARDING THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION

AGAINST EXCESSIVE PUNISHMENT, AS THE MAXIMUM PENALTY FOR

CONVICTION IN THIS CASE IS LIFE IMPRISONMENT. PROSECUTOR

CONFIDENTIAL

 

PAGE 03       HARARE 01536 071552Z

NATHANIEL SIBANDA CONTENDED THAT THE CASE SHOULD PROCEED TO TRIAL

IMMEDIATELY, GIVEN THE VERY SERIOUS CHARGES AND THE NEED FOR

GOVERNMENT TO MAKE CLEAR THAT, IN HIS WORDS, CALLING FOR THE

VIOLENT OVERTHROW OF A LAWFULLY-ELECTED LEADER IS NOT PERMISSIBLE

IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.

 

3. (U) AFTER DELIBERATING FOR THREE HOURS, JUDGE CHINHENGO

ANNOUNCED HIS INTENTION TO REFER THE CASE TO THE SUPREME COURT,

WHICH SHOULD, HE SAID, WEIGH IN BECAUSE THE CASE IS A MATTER OF

SIGNIFICANT PUBLIC INTEREST. IN ADDITION, CHINHENGO DECLARED,

THE NATION’S HIGHEST COURT SHOULD RULE ONCE AND FOR ALL ON THE

CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LOMA, A MUCH-CRITICIZED LAW — DRAFTED,

IRONICALLY, BY THE IAN SMITH REGIME — WHICH GAVE THE COLONIAL

GOVERNMENT SWEEPING POWERS IN ITS EFFORT TO SUPPRESS BLACK

NATIONALISTS.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

4. (C) CHINHENGO’S RULING MUST BE CONSIDERED A SMALL BUT

IMPORTANT VICTORY FOR TSVANGIRAI, AS THE JUDGE ESSENTIALLY AGREED

WITH HIS LEGAL TEAM’S CONTENTION THAT THE BASIS FOR THE CHARGES

AGAINST HIM MIGHT BE SUPERSEDED BY THE CONSTITUTION. THIS IS A

CRUCIAL TEST CASE, BOTH BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT REGULARLY USES THE

LAW AND ORDER MAINTENANCE ACT TO INTIMIDATE THE POLITICAL

OPPOSITION AND BECAUSE MANY OBSERVERS INTERPRET THE CONSTITUTION

AS PROHIBITING CONVICTED FELONS FROM RUNNING FOR THE PRESIDENCY,

ALTHOUGH THE DOCUMENT IS VAGUE ON THIS POINT. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE

TO PREDICT WHAT THE SUPREME COURT WILL DO. IT COULD DECIDE TO

REFER THE CASE BACK TO THE HIGH COURT FOR TRIAL. ALTHOUGH THE

CHARGES IN THIS CASE ARE CLEARLY POLITICALLY MOTIVATED —

CONFIDENTIAL

 

PAGE 04       HARARE 01536 071552Z

TSVANGIRAI WAS NOT ATTEMPTING TO INCITE VIOLENCE OR ENGAGING IN

 

SIPDIS

TERRORISM OR SABOTAGE — THE COURT MIGHT BE RELUCTANT TO STRIKE

DOWN BOTH ARTICLES IN FULL, FOR FEAR THAT DOING SO MIGHT REMOVE

AN IMPORTANT LEGAL MECHANISM FOR USE AGAINST GENUINE PERPETRATORS

OF THESE CRIMES. ON THE OTHER HAND, AN EXAMINATION OF THE

INTENTIONS OF THE ORIGINAL DRAFTERS OF THE LOMA MIGHT MAKE THE

JUSTICES INCLINED TO OVERTURN THE RELEVANT ARTICLES. THE

NATION’S ATTENTION WILL NOW TURN TO THE SUPREME COURT, WHICH WE

ANTICIPATE WILL NOT HEAR THE CASE FOR AT LEAST SEVERAL MONTHS.

 

IRVING

 

CONFIDENTIAL

 

>

 

(3 VIEWS)

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