Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna on Tuesday ruled that prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa should stand down from representing freelance journalist-cum activist Hopewell Chin’ono and ordered the Prosecutor General to institute contempt of court proceedings against her.
The ruling followed an application by the State led by prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi to stop Mtetwa from representing Chin’ono after she posted matters which were before the court on her Facebook page.
Mtetwa is alleged to have posted on her Facebook page titled Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law saying: “Where is the outrage of the international community that Hopewell Chin’ono is being held as a political prisoner?
“His life is in serious peril. Raise awareness about his unlawful imprisonment. Do not let him be forgotten. You or someone you love could be the next one abducted from your home and put in leg irons. SPEAK OUT”.
But Mtetwa, who is representing Chin’ono in a case in which he is being charged with inciting public violence, argued that the allegations of contempt, stemming from a Facebook page being run using her name, did not have any legal basis.
She denied being the owner of the page and was backed by her client Chin’ono who said it belonged to a film documentary maker who is not based in Zimbabwe.
Nduna said he would take his decision to the Law Society for further management arguing that Mtetwa’s practising licence should be cancelled for ‘scandalising the court’.
Speaking to journalists after the ruling, Mtetwa said she would appeal against the court order.
“It is not a coincidence that an order just says I must be prosecuted. So clearly when that order is coming from the court there will be that chilling effect that young lawyers will be prosecuted and if you are young and 30 you cannot afford to be prosecuted. I am over 60 and am going to be prosecuted at the end of my career.
“The intention is to stop us defending a certain type of client.
“Obviously we are going to challenge the ruling because we don’t agree with it. It means the right to legal representation has been severely curtailed by the courts which are actually supposed to be supporting that right,” she said
Chin’ono, who has been in remanded after a number of attempts to have both the High Court and Magistrates Court grant him bail have so far failed, has since selected Advocate Taona Nyamakura to be his lead lawyer.