In a seeming retaliatory move by the government, a High Court Judge, Charles Hungwe, has been reported lately as having fallen on a bad card with ZANU (PF) and the government after his recent decision to issue an order in favor of the accused MDC-T people who were arrested last Sunday in Harare. This spotlight follows two cases that he has handled and triggered some of his cases to come under strict scrutiny.
The last one was the recent Beatrice Mtetwa order that he issued around 2:30 am last Sunday ordering the police to release her, Thabani
Mpofu and others as the police had failed to produce a search warrant. The second case involved a warrant he issued through an order authorizing the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to descend on ZANU (PF) rich Ministers Mpofu (Mines), Goche (Transport) and Kasukuwere (Indigenization) to raid their offices and search for evidence on corruption. This order was timely intercepted and thwarted by Judge President George Chiweshe a renowned pro-ZANU (PF) bencher.
This is a test of powers and interesting development because both Charles Hungwe and George Chiweshe are war veterans from the Chimurenga who became lawyers after independence. They were appointed by President Mugabe under that ticket and normally High Court Judges in Zimbabwe should make rulings that do not fly in the face of Mugabe and his ZANU (PF) interests.
In the past, Judges that have made independent rulings and frustrated ZANU (PF) interests have found themselves in sitting on hot plates. Justice Paradza, who is now on a European Judge fast became infamous together with Justice Smith in the last decade and had to flee. Paradza had to flee in an 18 wheeler truck into South Africa as his life had become endangered by the secret service agents after some charges he percieved as trumped up but politically motivated. Justice Smith had to spend some nights with real suspects at the filthy Mbare police cells after he made an order to free someone who was anti ZANU (PF).
The latest development has seen Justice Hungwe being pointed to as having acted negligently in his not issuing a sentence to Jonathan
Mutsinze in 2003 after he was found guilty of car theft in 1998. The lost record and the setting of the case in abeyance could provide fodder for ZANU (PF) to swoop on him fast and order his discipline. Normally, such a scenario can invoke intolerable punishment from above.
In a related matter the chairman of ZACC, Ngonidzashe Gumbo, a former Assistant Commissioner in the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) now faces fraud allegations after allegedly pocketing some change money close to half a million dollars from the funds he used to purchase a Mount Pleasant house that would become the offices for ZACC. The charges became prominent after he tried to investigate the said Ministers. In Zimbabwe, judicial independence remains an uphill task because the government calls the last shots in any situation.