July 30, 2004

Tsvangirai verdict postponed indefinitely

The expected judgment in the case against Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been postponed indefinitely because the presiding judge, Zimbabwe High Court President Paddington Garwe and his two assessors could not agree on a verdict. Garwe had reached a guilty verdict but that his two assessors, Misheck Nyandoro and Joseph Dangarembizi, had disagreed with it and "refused to rubber-stamp his decision". The assessors are reported to have requested the court records and transcripts of the case. According to high court rules, judges may rule on points of law but all matters of fact must be decided by the majority of the court the judge and his two assessors.
Tsvangirai commented the postponing by saying that it was unprecedented for a high court judge to establish his findings without having first discussed it with his two assessors. Furthermore, he was anxious to get the matter settled so that he knew where he stood. Tsvangirai was first charged with plotting to kill Mugabe at the end of February 2002, just weeks before he stood as a candidate against him in a presidential election. In the opinion of most international election observers, the election was deemed to be seriously flawed. On the other hand, High Court President Garwe is also being criticised for not having allocated judges to hear most of the opposition's 37 legal challenges to the seats won by Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party in the 2000 parliamentary elections. The challenges are now seen as academic because Zimbabwe's next parliamentary elections are only eight months away. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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