Attorney General ‘Machaya’ under fire as Zim Govt loses court cases

State losing lawsuits at alarming rate

Lovemore Lubinda

High Court judges in Zimbabwe have questioned the competence of the Attorney General’s office which is headed by Advocate Prince Machaya over the way it had been handling lawsuits, saying this has seen the state found wanting in filing heads of arguments.

In many cases this has resulted in the deferment of cases, or cases thrown out altogether as judges urge it to put its house in order. As protests loom, pressure is now mounting on the AG’s office, more so at the same time the courts are saddled with a lot of cases on the table to try as various civic organisations such as NERA, Veritas Zimbabwe, through Harare lawyer Tendai Biti have filed applications challenging the state.

The skirmishes that happened in Harare yesterday, and the current political situation that has resulted cases of violence being recorded with the recent being in Guruve, involving members of the Zimbabwe People First party, also imply that the courts will have a lot of fish to fry, as suspects would be expected to be brought before the courts.

Among the high flying cases to be heard before the courts is the death penalty challenge, ban of protests by police, these are to be heard today, in addition to other cases expected to be heard before the courts soon.

High on the heels of pending court cases, Judges have raised questions over the office of the AG for allegedly letting the state down, saying the state has lost several cases not on matters of law, but through incompetence of its counsels.

Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba recently blasted the AG’s Office for its lightly handling of court cases thereby undermining the state’s ability to win cases against it that could have been brought before courts.

On September 15, this year, Justice Malaba sitting with eight other judges of the Constitutional Court while hearing a case between the state and a Harare woman (Ms Emelda Mhuriro) took a swipe on the AG’s office for allegedly taking matters for granted when representing government in matters of national interest.

Justice Francis Bere while hearing a matter involving the state and the Sexual Rights Centre that he later postponed to 6 October 2016, after the state through the Civil Division in the AG’s office failed to file heads of arguments, also expressed the same sentiments saying lawyers from the office were failing to treat matters of public importance with seriousness they deserve after they once again failed to file heads of arguments.

He said was now pondering bringing in the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) to second lawyers in order to boost the state’s position to win court cases. “We are considering inviting a friend of the court, LSZ to file the heads,” he said.

There have been several cases were the state have been found wanting. On 27 September 2016, members of the Bulawayo Youth Arise were freed by magistrate Adelaide Mbeure on charges of engaging in illegal demonstrations on the grounds that the state failed to substantiate its claims against the protesters. In the ruling the magistrate said the state’s case was weak.

On another case, High Court judge Priscillah Chigumba once deferred the hearing on the legality of demonstration bans, urging the state lawyers to prepare their points of arguments.

The protests that recently engulfed the country have exposed the AG’s office after civic organisations and human rights lawyers challenged the state’s response to the civil unrests. The government has been accused of being heavy handed on demonstrators who according to the Zimbabwean constitution, reserve the right to protest and petition.