Friday, 28 March 2014

Arrested for breaking eggs!


THE controversial conviction and sentencing Wednesday of a Chitungwiza man on witchcraft charges has provoked legal debate with experts saying Zimbabwean courts are, by law, not competent to differentiate witchcraft from common acts.

Arrested for breaking eggs
Lovemore Jochoma, 27, of Unit G in Chitungwiza was sentenced to an effective nine months in prison after he was caught “red-handed” while preparing to smash an egg to allegedly perform a ritual outside the Chitungwiza magistrates court’s premises.

The incident, the second such act by Jochoma in 24 hours, according to the State, infuriated superstitious court officials who quickly charged him under the Criminal Code.

Some went even further and linked the stunt to last week’s mysterious death of Chitungwiza resident magistrate, Kudakwashe Stewart Jarabini.

Jochoma admitted the bizarre act was a supernatural stunt meant to charm the court into acquitting him for a charge of domestic violence, which was due for trial.

“I brought this egg which was meant for the prosecutor who is dealing with my case of domestic violence,” he was quoted saying.

“I went to an apostolic sect leader where l was informed by a prophetess that l am possessed by some evil spirits that are tormenting me. She then told me to perform these rituals so that they would help me to be set free.”

For that, Jochoma earned the wrath of the court which slapped him with an effective nine month prison sentence, igniting a legal debate around the conviction.

The common feeling among those interviewed was that courts were generally not competent enough to discern a pure act of witchcraft without seeking expert evidence from practitioners of traditional medicine.

"Courts are not empowered to take judicial notice in a case involving witchcraft,” said one legal expert who cannot be named on professional reasons.

“This in layman’s language means the courts are not allowed to take such act as common knowledge. For example, it is common knowledge that Christmas comes on December 25.

“You need not ask the Pope to confirm that, just as much as it is common knowledge that the President of the country is Robert Mugabe, you do not need a cabinet minister to come to court to confirm that.

"But an act of witchcraft does not fall in the realm of things that can be classified as common knowledge. As such, the courts cannot proceed without leading evidence from traditional healing practitioners.

He continued; “Substantially, the court erred in that it convicted someone who was caught performing an act which the court associated with witchcraft and yet basing the resultant conviction on his admitting that he got the egg from a prophet.

“The law is clear on this but is vague on acts that are associated with a prophet, who does not practice witchcraft.
“In other words, this law is discriminatory on the basis of religion. It punishes acts that touch on chivanhu and not prophets. There are a lot of cases involving members of the white clothed church which are not so normal but are not regarded as witchcraft.

“Similarly since this man says he took his paraphernalia from a prophetess, why should it not be regarded in the same light? This is a clear warrant for constitutional challenge.”

We need to establish the details first ... Zinatha executive director George Kandiero

Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) executive director George Kandiero said he would not give a clear-cut comment on the incident adding they needed to get the full details of the incident first before taking a position.

“Let us get the details first before we can take a position,” he said.

“But in the meantime, we as Zinatha urge people not to engage themselves in acts that can be misconstrued for witchcraft by others. Mind you, we are a very superstitious society as Zimbabweans.”

Section 98 of the Criminal Code criminalises the performing of acts commonly associated with witchcraft.

If convicted, one is liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.

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