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Magistrate Deliberates Future of Zimbabwean Activist Undone by Kimberly Monitor

Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said Kimberly Process monitor Chikane had undone whatever his organization had accomplished in Zimbabwe by undermining its reputation for independence and deterring civic whistleblowers

Zimbabwean state prosecutors on Wednesday offered arguments in Harare magistrate court opposing a move by lawyers for Mutare activist Farai Maguwu to seek his release pending trial on charges he published false information about the Marange diamond field, rather than his being remanded in police custody.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported that the state called a police detective who said Maguwu published falsehoods in reporting that 75 alleged victims of human rights abuse by police and the military were treated in Mutare General Hospital. Lawyers for Maguwu argued that there was no evidence supporting the accusations and that Maguwu's rights had already been violated in being held without charges.

Controversy continued, meanwhile, over the role of the Kimberly Process monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane of South Africa, in Maguwu's arrest. Chikane has acknowledged he surrendered documents obtained from Maguwu to Zimbabwean officials because they appeared to have been obtained illegally.

Chikane told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira on Monday that he turned the documents over to the Cabinet committee on the Marange diamond field because he feared he might himself be arrested.

Sources on the Cabinet committee confirmed that Chikane had handed over the documents, purported to be from the Joint Operating Command or JOC, which comprises the heads of all main security forces.

"Chikane's dilemma was whether he would accept this official document that was obtained by unofficial means," a Cabinet source said. "I have no problem with Chikane handing over the classified papers," the source said, but he quickly added: "Arresting Maguwu is what I'm against."

The prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said Chikane’s action reversed all the good that the Kimberly Process might have done in Zimbabwe, as the monitor's actions undermined the organization's reputation for independence and deterred civic activists from providing information in future.