By A Correspondent| Two High Court Judges have berated Harare Magistrate Judith Taruvinga for committing an enormous blunder when she convicted and sentenced Makomborero Haruzivishe, a pro-democracy campaigner, to serve jail time in 2021 on baseless charges of inciting public violence and resisting arrest by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers.
Haruzivishe was convicted on Wednesday 31 March 2021 by Magistrate Taruvinga on charges of inciting public violence and resisting arrest by law enforcement agents, who on Tuesday 6 April 2021 sentenced him to serve 36 months in jail. However, 16 months of his sentence were suspended on condition that he does not commit the same offence and
He had been arrested by ZRP officers on 5 February 2020 and charged with inciting public violence and resisting arrest by law enforcement agents. During trial, prosecutors alleged that Haruzivishe incited some vendors to commit public violence by whistling to them when some ZRP officers were on an operation to round up informal traders in Harare’s central business district. Haruzivishe, the prosecutors charged, also resisted arrest by some police officers who wanted to apprehend him.
On the first count of incitement as defined in section 187 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Magistrate Taruvinga sentenced Haruzivishe to serve 24 months in prison of which 10 months were suspended for a period of five years.
On the second count of resisting a peace officer as defined in section 176 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the pro-democracy campaigner was sentenced to serve 12 months of which six months were suspended for a period of five years.
Haruzivishe, who was represented by Kossam Ncube and Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, then appealed against both conviction and sentence in 2021, where he argued that Magistrate Taruvinga had grossly erred and misdirected herself in convicting him and hence the guilty verdict handed down by the judicial officer should be set aside.
After presiding over hearing of Haruzivishe’s appeal, Justice Benjamin Chikowero and Justice Happias Zhou on 22 September 2022 quashed and set aside the pro-democracy campaigner’s conviction and sentence by Magistrate Taruvinga after finding him not guilty on both counts and consequently acquitted him.
Justice Chikowero and Zhou had no kind words for Magistrate Taruvinga whom they said had “fundamentally misdirected” herself in convicting imprisoning Haruzivishe.
The two judges concluded that Magistrate Taruvinga’s ruling was not “thorough” and that she had based her verdict on an “incorrect appreciation of evidence” adduced during Haruzivishe’s trial and also on patently “wrong facts”.