By Mary Taruvinga
JAILED cleric Robert Martin Gumbura, together with six other inmates on charges of attempting a prison break, on Monday approached the High Court seeking stay of proceedings in their prolonged trial.
This comes after Harare magistrate Francis Mapfumo dismissed their application for discharge at the close of State’s case.
Gumbura, Independent End Time Message church founder, is jointly charged with Blessing Chiduke, Luckmore Matambanadzo, Lucky Mhungu, Taurai Dodzo, Thomas Chacha and Elijah Vhumbunu.
They are all accused of masterminding a foiled jail break from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in 2013.
The inmates are appealing against Mapfumo’s judgement.
In the application which they filed through their lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, the inmates said, “The magistrate’s decision not to acquit the accused was irrational and unreasonable that no reasonable person, applying his or her mind to the evidence led by the State by the close of its case, could have made such a decision.”
Most witnesses who testified exonerated Gumbura except for two who claimed that the cleric wielded so much power inside prison walls that a lot of inmates worshipped him for supplying them with food and other goodies.
But the lawyer said the State’s evidence was inadmissible and unreliable.
“The decision not to discharge the applicants is illegal in that, there being no evidence that the accused committed the offence, the applicants are being put to their defence in order to supplement the manifestly unreliable evidence of the State,” said Madhuku.
The lawyer also said the magistrate did not apply his mind to critical issues in delivering his judgement.
Mapfumo ruled there was reasonable suspicion that the suspects committed an offence and should therefore be put to their defence.
Two of the inmates Thulani Chizema and Jacob Sibanda were cleared of any wrongdoing and acquitted at the close of State’s case.
Mapfumo said the seven should explain why they went on rooftops if they were protesting over food issues on the day in question.
He also said he witnessed some ropes made of torn blankets and drilling on roof tops which shows that an escape was planned.
The magistrate said the suspects should explain how the roof ended up with holes.
“This court is of the view that the accused also have to explain the purpose of the meetings. After all, it was after these meetings that violence broke out,” he ruled.