Why Did Magistrate Bianca Makwande Treat Joanna Mamombe So Different From Priscah Mupfumira?
25 September 2020
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Paul Nyathi

HARARE magistrate Bianca Makwande has sent Harare West legislator Joanah Mamombe (MDC Alliance) to prison for two weeks allegedly to enable two government doctors to assess her mental condition after she failed to attend trial due to a confirmed mental disorder.

Makwande made the ruling out of her own without the state pushing for the imprisonment. The State had applied for the court to invoke section 26 of the Mental Health Act to allow Mamombe to be examined by government doctors at a government hospital.

Mamombe’s lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu had opposed the application, saying his client could volunteer to go to a mental institution of her choice if recommended by the court.

But magistrate Bianca Makwande ruled that she be sent to Chikurubi Prison besides her being on bail.

“The court is not an expert on mentality and it requires expert advice to ascertain if the diagnosis was correct, to what extent and whether it will affect the trial. The testimony of her doctor could not be clear and she could not be neutral,” she said.

The magistrate said she was exercising her mandate judiciously by invoking section 26 of the Mental Health Act.

“Accused person has to be examined by neutral doctors. She has to be examined by two doctors who must each give independent reports,” she said

Mamombe will be placed under the care of the superintendent of Harare Remand Prison for two weeks effective today.She is expected back in court on October 8.

The decision of the court is different from that taken on former Cabinet minister and Zanu PF heavyweight, Priscah Mupfumira, who is facing fraud charges involving US$95 million.

Mupfumira filed a similar application with the court, saying she was not mentally fit to stand trial and asked for three months to recover.

In her application, Mupfumira said she was not mentally fit to stand trial and that her psychiatrist had recommended that she be given three months to recover.

Mupfumira’s then lawyer Charles Chinyama submitted that she had been experiencing depression since her release from remand prison, which he said saw her visiting psychiatrists and requested the trial to be postponed for six weeks. She filed the application in December 2019, but nine months later, her trial has not started.