Mugabe's Supreme Court bench throws out Biti's case

Harare,- The Supreme Court has struck off an appeal filed by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general Tendai Biti challenging his prolonged detention on treason charges two years ago by two policemen notorious for torturing political and human rights activists.\r\n

Supreme Court Judge Justice Vernanda Ziyambi struck off the case from the court roll after ruling that the appeal was filed out of time. Biti’s lawyers filed the appeal after the elapse of the 15 days that are permitted to note an appeal in the Supreme Court.

“The matter is struck off the roll and there is no order to the costs,” said Ziyambi who presided over the case together with Justice Paddington Garwe and Justice Misheck Cheda.

Biti’s lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri said he will file an application seeking leave to appeal out of time.

Biti dragged Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge, the Officer Commanding CID Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station and Assistant Commissioner Matema challenging his arrest and detention.

Biti, the MDC chief negotiator in inter-party talks was arrested and detained by Makedenge and Matema in June 2008 on treason charges and communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state, soon after his return from South Africa.

The treason charge emanated from a document he allegedly authored entitled “The Transition Strategy”, while the other charge was about statements he allegedly made after the March 29 harmonised elections in which MDC leader Tsvangirai shocked President Robert Mugabe by defeating him in an election.

Although the charges were later dropped by the state after his appointment as Finance Minister in a shaky coalition government of Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Biti wants the Supreme Court to annul High Court Judge Samuel Kudya’s judgment which declared Biti’s prolonged detention as lawful.

Supreme Court Judges Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Misheck Cheda will preside over Biti’s appeal.

Kudya declared as lawful Makedenge and Matema’s detention of Biti after the lawyer-turned politician challenged the validity of his detention for five days instead of being brought to court as stipulated in his warrant of arrest which the notorious policemen relied upon to detain him.

Human rights groups said the Supreme Court’s consideration of Biti’s appeal, which had was supposed to be heard on Monday was academic, and exposed the slow pace of the country’s justice delivery system.

“It however serves to highlight the slow nature of Zimbabwe’s justice delivery system, and how authorities can potentially escape liability for abuses of fundamental rights because cases take too long to be heard and finalised,” said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), an influential rights group, which strives to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe.

Makedenge and Matema have over the past decades been fingered in many cases of abuse, harassment, arrest and torture of political and human rights activists.

Early this year Makedenge forced freelance journalist Stanley Kwenda to go into exile after he threatened him over a story which he alleged the journalist had authored exposing his private life. More than a dozen victims of state sponsored enforced disappearance are suing Makedenge for torturing them during the period they were held incommunicado.