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South African Lawyers Stand In Solidarity With Beatrice Mtetwa

The Johannesburg Society for Advocates has affirmed their support for top Zimbabwean lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa and legal representatives standing for citizens arrested in the course of exercise their democratic and constitutionally enshrined rights to express criticism of the Government.

Mtetwa was yesterday banned from representing incarcerated investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on the grounds she had developed personal interest in his client case.

In a statement, the South African advocates said courts and court officials should not abuse their positions or act outside the bounds of their authority.

“The JSA continues to stand in support of the lawyers, including Mrs Mtetwa, representing those seeking to exercise their democratic and constitutionally enshrined rights to express criticism of the Government in Zimbabwe.

“It is crucial that courts and court officials should maintain their independence and impartiality in such matters and not abuse their positions or act outside of the bounds of their authority to trample on the human rights of litigants, especially arrestees. These matters go to the heart of the rule of law and constitutional democracy,” read the statement

JSA took a dig at Magistrate Nduna saying ‘a careful reading of the Magistrate’s ruling suggests that this was an instance of judicial overreach.’

The Advocates said the ruling does not give an order that Mtetwa was in contempt of court.

“In making the disqualification ruling, Magistrate Nduna was at pains to note that the application was not one seeking to hold Mrs. Mtetwa in contempt of court and the ruling makes no order that Mrs. Mtetwa is in contempt.”

“It is apparent that the Magistrate did not consider the evidence sufficient to reach the conclusion that Mrs. Mtetwa was in contempt of court. Nor is there any basis on the facts referred to in the ruling to make such claim. The allegation that Mrs. Mtetwa has committed unethical conduct should be properly investigated in accordance with fair procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct by legal practitioners.

“In view of the questionable legal and factual basis of the allegations, it is unbecoming of the prosecutors in this matter to have launched an application of this nature in circumstances where it was plainly intended to deprive an awaiting trial prisoner of legal representation by his chosen lead counsel. Apart from the questionable factual and legal basis of the ruling, it is furthermore disappointing that concern for the rights of the accused does not appear to have featured in any way in the Magistrate’s consideration of the matter, let alone given pause for thought in extending the duties of the prosecutors to the defence counsel,” said JSA.

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