Court imposes Mphoko trial media ban ‘to protect State secrets’

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By Mary Taruvinga

HARARE magistrate Trynos Utahwashe Wednesday barred the media from covering the entire trial of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who is fighting to clear his name from abuse of office charges.

This followed an application by state prosecutor Lovett Masuku who told court that Mphoko’s defence outline contained information which could compromise state security if heard by everyone.

Mphoko is facing criminal abuse of office charges after he in 2016 allegedly ordered police juniors at Avondale police station to release two former Zinara bosses, Moses Juma and Davison Norupiri who had been arrested on graft allegations.

The court ban on the media also affects members of the public.

Only Mphoko’s wife and daughter will be allowed into the court from trial beginning up to the end.

“Only his wife and daughter will be allowed in for moral support, ” ruled the magistrate.

Masuku had submitted that, “before commencing trial, the state, having been furnished with Mphoko’s defence outline, we are of the view that the proceedings should be heard on camera. The application is premised on Section 3 of the Courts and Adjudication Restrictions Act.

“Evidence likely to be adduced will not be good to the States affairs, in other words, will threaten State security.

“We are aware that criminal trials should be heard in public but to protect the States secrets, we pray that the trial proceeds in camera.”

Mphoko’s lawyer Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba had to lobby for the ex-VP’s immediate family to be allowed in.

Masuku said this might backfire.

“They are not governed by the Official Secrecy Act, hence there is no guarantee that they will not disclose the information revealed in trial,” he said.

Case continues this Thursday.