A HARARE magistrate has sent Harare West legislator Joanah Mamombe (MDC Alliance) to prison for two weeks to enable two government doctors to assess her mental condition after she failed to attend trial due to alleged mental disorder.
Mamombe, who is accused of faking abduction three months ago, was arrested together with MDC Alliance activists Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri.
The trio was later found dumped in rural Bindura, tortured and sexually abused by suspected State security agents, but the government has denied involvement in the alleged abduction.
The State had applied for the court to invoke section 26 of the Mental Health Act to allow Mamombe to be examined by government doctors, but Mamombe’s lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu had opposed the application, saying his client could volunteer to go to a mental institution of her choice if recommended by the court.
But magistrate Bianca Makwande ruled that the facts before her clearly showed Mamombe was mentally disordered and by invoking the Mental Health Act, the court would get a clear picture of her mental stability for her to have a right to a fair trial.
“The court is not an expert on mentality and it requires expert advice to ascertain if the diagnosis was correct, to what extent and whether it will affect the trial. The testimony of her doctor could not be clear and she could not be neutral,” she said.
The magistrate said she was exercising her mandate judiciously by invoking section 26 of the Mental Health Act.
“Accused person has to be examined by neutral doctors. She has to be examined by two doctors who must each give independent reports,” she said
Mamombe will be placed under the care of the superintendent of Harare Remand Prison for two weeks effective today.
She is expected back in court on October 8.
The decision of the court is different from that taken in relation to members of the ruling party such as former Cabinet minister and Zanu-PF heavyweight, Priscah Mupfumira, who is facing fraud charges involving US$95 million.
Mupfumira filed a similar application with the court, saying she was not mentally fit to stand trial and asked for three months to recover.
In her application, Mupfumira said she was not mentally fit to stand trial and that her psychiatrist had recommended that she be given three months to recover.
Mupfumira’s then lawyer Charles Chinyama submitted that she had been experiencing depression since her release from remand prison, which he said saw her visiting psychiatrists and requested the trial to be postponed for six weeks. She filed the application in December 2019, but nine months later, her trial has not started>chaosafrica