Opposition MDC Alliance activists Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marova filed a High Court application on Thursday seeking the recusal of a magistrate and a prosecutor from presiding over their trial on allegations of publishing falsehoods.
The application was lodged a day after Mamombe, a legislator for Harare West, and Chimbiri were released from Chikurubi Maximum Prison, where they were locked up for two months on accusations of violating Covid-19 protocols.
The three, who have a slew of pending cases, say they are terrified of magistrate Bianca Makwande and prosecutor Michael Reza, adding they can not get justice if the two are not removed from their case.
They also want their trial halted on the basis that their appeal for recused is still pending at the High Court.
In her founding affidavit, Mamombe recalled how during a court appearance, the three protested that “we could not properly plead to the charges given our so many misgivings in the matter but Makwande forced us to plead.”
“When we pleaded the time was now around 18:37 PM. To say that I was shocked at what I witnessed on April 28 is an understatement. I became so afraid of Makwande and Reza that I concluded there are chances of ice in hell than there are of me getting justice before these two,” Mamombe said.
She added: “My co-applicants were equally apprehensive. I could see Chimbiri sweating during the proceedings whilst Marova was shivering in the corner in fear of what was panning out before us.”
The Harare West MP said she and her co-accused “all came to the conclusion that our matters had been predetermined by Makwande and that we were not going to get a fair hearing before her.”
The activists are accused of publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State after allegedly faking their abduction last year. They were also charged with violating Covid-19 regulations after allegedly staging a demonstration in Warren Park.
The defendants say despite the fact that their application for review is still pending before High Court judge Justice Happius Zhou and that the State had already consented to the review, Makwande was still insisting that they go to trial.
Arguing for the trio in a certificate of urgency, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said “if the trial is not stopped, the applicants stand to suffer irreparable harm proceeding with trial before a judicial officer who has already exhibited traits of bias by refusing even to afford them the right to be heard is irredeemably prejudicial.”
The matter is yet to be heard.