High Court on Wednesday 12th April 2021 temporarily halted a trial of MDC Alliance trio Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.
The reports say this is due to the pending determination of their urgent application seeking recusal of magistrate Bianca Makwande and prosecutor Michael Reza from the trial for “publishing falsehoods”.
The Zimbabwean opposition activist faced trial for making allegedly false claims of torture by suspected state security agents in September 2020.
She was ordered by Judge Bianca Makwande to be evaluated by government doctors to ensure that she can stand trial in October. An official at Chikurubi maximum security prison, where Mamombe has been confined, told VOA the assessment could take place there or in a designated clinical setting.
Mamombe is one of three young female activists arrested May 13 for engaging in anti-government protests during the coronavirus lockdown.
The women, including Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, say they were taken from Harare police custody by unidentified men who tortured and sexually abused them. The women were missing for almost two days, then were left on a road near Bindura, a town about 90 kilometers northeast of the capital.
The women face charges of breaking lockdown restrictions, trying to incite violence, and making false accusations of abduction, torture and sexual abuse. They all had been imprisoned at Chikurubi but have been free on bail.
All three are members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance (MDC-Alliance). Mamombe represented the capital area of Harare West in Zimbabwe’s Parliament for almost three years until July last year when she and a handful of other MDC-Alliance lawmakers were recalled by the new party leadership.
Mamombe failed to report for a court hearing in Harare, An arrest warrant was issued but cancelled after Mamombe’s doctor submitted evidence that Mamombe had been admitted to a local hospital for health issues.
Prosecutor Michael Reza then sought a court order for her mental evaluation. The government has suggested Mamombe is feigning mental illness to avoid having to stand trial.
On Thursday, Alec Muchadehama, an attorney with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who is representing Mamombe, told VOA Zimbabwe, “She is now a prisoner. She was on bail but now she can no longer get medical help on her own.”
The attorney said he was seeking Mamombe’s release on bail.
MDC-Alliance spokesman Clifford Hlatywayo protested Mamombe’s detention. In a tweet Thursday, he rhetorically asked, “How can you transfer a sick young lady from a hospital bed to the cold floors of Chikurubi prison? This persecution and abuse of civilians must end now.”