The Catholic Lawyers Guild In Zimbabwe has published the following statement in solidarity with renowned lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who was thrown off Hopewell Chin’ono’s case after the state made the application citing that she scandalised the court. The guide said even though Mtetwa was their colleague, they were speaking out because Mtetwa who is a member of the undersigned guide’s rights and those of her client Hopewell Chin’ono were not being respected. Read the full statement below:
The Catholic Lawyers Guild in Zimbabwe is a non.partisan association of more than two hundred (200) lawyers working within and outside Zimbabwe, guided in their work by their faith, fundamental provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as read with relevant international human righ. instruments, and the precepts of Catholic Social Teaching.
Statement of Solidarity Regarding Attorney Beatrice Mtetwa
22 August 2020
1. We, the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild in Zimbabwe, issue this statement in reponse to the ruling by the Harare Magistrates Court in the matter of the State v Hopewell Chin’ono (COB HREP 1226)20). The effect of the ruling handed down on the 18th of August, 2020, is to disqualify the accused person’s defence counsel, Mrs. Beatrice Mtetwa, from representing the accused person in a prosecution already fraught with numerous difficulties.
2. For the record, Mrs. Beatrice Mtetwa is a member of our Guild, and indeed, our colleague. However, our motivation in speaking out is not driven by these factors. Ours is a guild of lawyers, sworn to uphold the law and it is our duty to speak out against injustice wherever we encounter it.
3. We are appalled at the unwarranted curtailement, not only of Mrs. Mtetwa’s fundamental rights as a legal practitioner, but the consequent denial of Mrs. Mtetwa’s client, Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono, of his constitutional right to a legal practitioner of his choice.
4. We must state that our position as conveyed in this statement is guilded by the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides in section 2 that it “is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and any law, practice, custom or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.” The obligations imposed by this Constitution are binding on every person, natural or juristic, including the State and all executive, legislative and judicial institutions and agencies of government at every level, and must be fulfilled by them.”
5. In our humble view, the disqualification by the Court, of Mrs. Mtetwa as lead counsel in that matter, is directly in conflict with her right as set out in section 64 of the Constitution, “to choose and carry on any profession, trade or occupation”. This is particularly so as Mrs. Mtetwa was actually not tried or found guilty of any misconduct, by the appropriate body charged with regulating the conduct of lawyers, namely, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ).
6. We acknowledge that in appropriate cases, a court may summarily inquire into and impose appropriate sanction in instances of alleged contempt of court. However, circumstances in which the ruling in issue was made demonstrably fall outside the permitted bounds.
7. What aggravates the unjust treatment of Mrs. Mtetwa is the related denial of her client, Mr. Hopewell Chin’ono’s right to be represented by a legal practitioner of his choice. Mr. Chin’ono’s right is so important that the framers of our Constitution found it necessary to state it in 2 different sections of the Constitution, namely: section 69(4) and 70(1)(d). However, in one fell swoop, M. Chin’ono’s right has been denied, for the alleged transgression of his legal practitioner.
8. We find it necessary to remind the State that in addition to upholding the Constitution of Zimbabwe, it is also obliged to uphold the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers as adopted by the United Nations:
o “All persons are entitled to call upon the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to protect and establish their rights and to defend them in ail stages of criminal proceedings.
o No court or administrative authority before whom the right to counsel is recognized shall refuse to recognize the right of a lawyer to appear before it for his or her client unless that lawyer has been disqualified in accordance with nationd law and practice and in conformity with these principles.
o Lawyers shall enjoy civi/ and penal immunity for re/evant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professionate appearances before a court, tribunal or other legal or administrative authority.
o Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. in particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters conceming the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. in exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.
0 Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.
o Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers shall be brought before an impartial disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, before an independent statutory authority, or before a court, and shall be subject to an independent judicial review..
9. In conclusion, we wish to state that in our view, whatever conduct was the subject of complaint before the Harare Magistrates Court in the matter of State v Hopewell Chin’ono, could be adequately have been dealt with in the ordinary manner by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ).
10. We pray to Almighty God that through the grace of His son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our rulers in all branches of the State, may always act with probity, and strive to do justice to each and every person living and working in Zimbabwe.
As we so pray, we stand in solidarity with our beloved sister, Beatrice Mtetwa.
CATHOLIC LAWYERS GUILD In Zimbabwe
Friday 21 August 2020