Grace PhD: Suspended UZ boss rejects Mnangagwa prosecutors; says they are illegal

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By Mary Taruvinga

SUSPENDED University of Zimbabwe (UZ) vice chancellor Levi Nyagura has rejected prosecution by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s newly established special anti-corruption unit.

Nyagura is answering criminal abuse of office charges over the award in 2014 of a doctorate degree to former first lady Grace Mugabe without following procedures.

The UZ don’s trial failed to kick off this Wednesday after he sought referral of the matter to the Constitutional Court.

He challenged the legality of special prosecutors handling the case saying their appointment contravened the country’s supreme law according to which the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and the Prosecutor General (PG) should be independent and not taking orders from the President.

Tapiwa Godzi and Michael Chakandida from the Presidential Special Anticorruption Unit are representing the prosecution. Both are lawyers in private practice.

Advocate Lewis Uriri

“Their (special prosecutors’) salaries are paid by the President; they are bound by the Official Secrets Act,” said Nyagura’s lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri.

“People who can assist the PG are provided for by the statute, but these prosecutors have not been appointed under an Act of Parliament and, in any event, the terms of their appointment conflicts with powers of NPA.

“Since they are paid by him (Mnangagwa), they will act according to his instructions. The independence of prosecution is already biased and their (prosecutors) loyalty lies with the one who has appointed them, the president,” he added.

In response Godzi and Chakandida opposed Nyagura’s application saying it was invalid.

Both told court that they are qualified lawyers licenced to operate in Zimbabwe by the NPA, adding that there was nothing special about Nyagura’s case.

“The accused’s application is not valid and only directed at delaying this matter,” said Godzi.

“This is not the first time Uriri has dealt with prosecutors who are in my shoes.

“The court needs to take a judicial notice that the lawyer is representing (businessman Wicknell) Chivayo in this same court but has never raised such concerns.”

Magistrate Lazini Ncube is expected to make his ruling on the application this Thursday.

The special Anti-Corruption Unit housed in the Office of the President and Cabinet was established by President Mnangagwa in May this year to improve efficiency in the fight against graft.

A special court was also set up at the Harare Magistrates’ court with former energy minister Samuel Undenge being the first to be convicted.