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Legal Profession Under Siege: Young Lawyers

Young lawyers Association of Zimbabwe (YLAZ) has castigated the state sponsored clampdown on the legal profession following the arrest of six lawyers under suspicious and unclear circumstances.

By Marshall Bwanya

At least four lawyers, advocate Thabani Mpofu, Tapiwa Makanza, Joshua Chirambwe and Dumisani Dube, were recently arrested and charged with obstructing the course of justice under suspicious, compromised and unclear circumstances.

While the other two lawyers, Choice Damiso and Lawman Chimuriwo were taken in for questioning by the police and later released without charge also under suspicious circumstances.

“YLAZ is increasingly concerned by the continued deterioration of civil liberties in Zimbabwe and in particular the sustained attack on the legal profession.

“In the past week alone, at least six lawyers have been targeted by the police directly in relation to the exercise of their ordinary work as lawyers. The persecution of legal practitioners must come to an end and the government must return to the ethos of the rule of law as espoused in the Constitution.

“The courts, military and police force should remain independent and impartial so as to ensure that Zimbabweans can have faith in the same. No country has ever flourished without upholding these ideals,” read the YLAZ statement.

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Last week five MDC Alliance opposition leaders including Tendai Biti and Lynette Karenyi-Kore were arrested on allegations of ‘criminal nuisance’ and contravening COVID-19 regulations while trying to gain entry at Harvest house occupied by Thokozani Khupe led faction.

Analysts and critics have labeled the arrests of Biti and other opposition leaders as partisan and targeted, bringing to scrutiny footage that captured Khupe and Mwonzora visit to Morgan Tsvangirai’s graveyard violating COVID-19 regulations of social distancing.

YLAZ also highlighted that the reason why Thabani Mpofu was facing bizarre charges leved against him could be linked to his previous efforts to challenge the appointment of the Kumbirai Hodzi as the current Prosecutor General.

“The matter involving Mpofu, Makanza and Chirambwe is predicated on a challenge to the appointment of the Prosecutor General, whose office is now overseeing the prosecution of our colleagues, which brings the independence and impartiality of the same into dispute.

“We remind the Prosecutor-General of his constitutional obligation to, ‘exercise his functions impartially and without fear, favour, prejudice or bias,’ as required by section 260 of the Constitution.

Hodzi the current Prosecutor although not amongst the first choices of the Judicial Service Commission was appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa nangagwa last year raising a lot of eyebrows.

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YLAZ further articulated that Dumisani Dube’s arrest  at a police station while attending to the arrest of his client was a violation of article 18 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Which states that: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

YLAZ appealed to the security services to uphold their constitutional duty to maintain the utmost respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms and the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution as required by section 206 and not to act in a partisan manner or further the interest of any political party or cause as required by section 207 of the Constitution.

The young lawyers association also expressed its determined to secure a future in which they carry out their legal duties without fear, favour or intimidation and where Constitution of Zimbabwe is respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled.

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