22 May 2018
The family of the late slain Norton athlete Bertha Chimutu is fuming over the release of her alleged killer on bail.
Nhamo Mafundera walked out of the Norton Magistrates Courts a free man on Thursday last week, having been granted bail by the High Court in Harare. He is expected back in court on 6 June 2018.
Miffed by what they feel is a trivialization of the case at hand by the justice delivery system, Showlade Mthembu, an aunt to the late, has taken the family’s anger to social media by opening a page called Justice for Bertha Chimutu.
Probably to illustrate their disbelief on the admission of the suspect to bail when, as they allege, he initially admitted to the cold-blooded murder, the first post on the page features a website image from H-Metro, featuring the suspect pointing at what appeared to be blood stains during a visit to the crime scene.
Speaking from her United Kingdom (UK) base, Mthembu, a sister to the late athlete’s mother, said the social media campaign was their way of galvanizing the public’s attention towards Bertha’s case so that no other young woman goes through the same ordeal.
“I have initiated this as the beginning of a major campaign to rally all concerned people around this case. We, as a family, do not understand how the justice system could grant Nhamo bail so easily. We smell a rat. Hopefully, this is not meant to aid him to escape justice”, she said.
Mthembu added that she also received a message from her sister, Bertha’s mother, who expressed fear over the family’s safety now that Mafundera was out of custody.
“My sister’s family is now living in fear for their lives, unsure of what someone who fulfilled his threat to kill Bertha will do next. Remember too that the suspect’s family and my sister’s are neighbors”, said Mthembu.
In terms of Zimbabwean law, it might be difficult for the Chimutu family to overturn the granting of bail because the matter is between the State and Mafundera, meaning only the State can appeal against the granting of bail.
They can only get a way if the bailiff, after being admitted to bail, threatens them (as state witnesses). In that case, the courts would review bail based on changed circumstances.
Mafundera is a beneficiary of the presumption of innocence until one is found guilty by a competent court. Based on such presumption, every suspect is eligible for bail, unless the investigator or prosecution gives good reasons for bail to be denied.
According to Section 50(1)(d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a suspect must be released unconditionally or on reasonable conditions, pending a charge or trial, unless there are compelling reasons justifying their continued detention.