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Prosecutors stay away from Mandiwanzira case

By Shamiso Dzingire

The trial of Nyanga South MP and former ICT minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, failed to take off again this week after State prosecutors failed to turn up for the trial, upsetting magistrate Elijah Makomo who immediately put the State on terms. 

ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira
Former Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira

A stand-in prosecutor Venerandah Munyoro told the court the trial prosecutor Michael Chakandida was unable to travel to Harare “due to reasons beyond his control”.

A member of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Tapiwa Godzi, who is part of the team, was also in no show without providing reasons.

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Magistrate Makomo rapped the prosecution for failing to put their house in order and making actions that indicate they were not ready for trial.

The magistrate, who appeared irritated by the State, said it was clear Chakandida knew the trial was not taking off as no witness had been called in.

None of the State witnesses was in attendance.  

The magistrate said the State was turning the trial court into “a court of postponement” before threatening not to treat the State with “kid gloves”.

“We are reaching a stage where we put the State to terms. We can’t keep on remanding the court now and again, we are not a remand court,” Makomo said.

“May the message be clear to him (Prosecutor Chakandida) that the court will not continue to treat him with kid gloves. The State has been put on terms that you must be ready for trial on February 7.”

The State also failed to provide documents it was ordered to furnish the defence in December last year.

Mandiwanzira and his defence team, Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba, Advocate Brian Hungwe and instructing attorney Selby Hwacha, waited for almost the whole day for State prosecutors to appear before Munyoro moved in to stand in for the absent prosecutors.

Magwaliba told the court the State had failed to furnish them with the documents as ordered last year.

“It is correct that on December 18, we applied for documents necessary in the case.  On Friday 13, January 21, 2019, my instructing practitioners were served at 5pm with documents related to a contract for Tawanda Chinembiri,” Magwaliba said.

The State provided a contract of employment for Chinembiri, confirming he was a government employee when he was assigned to represent the ICT ministry on the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe(Potraz) board.

The former ICT minister is being charged for deploying Chinembiri whom the prosecutors say was not a government employee at the time of his appointment.  

On another request for correspondence between NetOne and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Magwaliba said an affidavit was provided from NetOne denying the existence of such correspondence.

The State also failed to provide minutes of a February 2016 meeting in which Mandiwanzira allegedly ordered the hiring of Megawatt to probe the NetOne-Huawei deal.

“On minutes of a meeting held in February, 2016, there is no explanation why the minutes have not been furnished or an affidavit explaining that,” Magwaliba, said adding the State had to comply with the order.

On another request for the State to furnish correspondence between NetOne and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Magwaliba said an affidavit from NetOne denied the existence of such correspondence

In the State outline, the prosecution indicated that it had in its possession communication between NetOne and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which proved that the transaction had been rejected as being illegal.

Mandiwanzira is accused of criminal abuse of office after he allegedly engaged a South African firm, Megawatt Company, to provide services to NetOne without going to tender. He is also accused of appointing his personal assistant, Tawanda Chinembiri to the Potraz board. Daily News