Magistrate’s Bid To Block Trial Over US$20 Bribe Hits Snag

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By Mary Taruvinga

SUSPENDED Hurungwe magistrate Amanda Muridzo has lost her bid to block trial after the High Court ordered she should be prosecuted for allegedly taking a US$20 bribe.

Justice Tawanda Chitapi said Muridzo who was stationed at Hurungwe Magistrates’ court should be put to defence.

Muridzo had appealed against magistrate Bianca Makwande’s ruling dismissing her application for discharge at the close of state’s case, noting that she had a case to answer.

Muridzo was arrested after she allegedly collected a US$20 bribe from an accused person barely a year after she was sworn in as a magistrate.

She filed a joint application with one David Mazowi, who was the accused person facing maintenance default charges.

Chitapi said he cannot rely on her defence to discharge her, adding that she only appealed to “test the waters”.

“The court cannot rely on the defence outline when assessing whether or not to discharge the accused at the close of the State case. There was no shifting of onus which appears from the record,” Chitapi said.

“The application for the discharge of the applicants was routinely made to test the waters. The evidence against the applicants clearly raised a prima facie of bribery. The applicants must explain the innocence of the trial of events. This is not a reverse onus requirement. The application for discharge was therefore properly determined and there was no irregularity or misdirection committed by the first respondent (Makwande) in her judgment,” Chitapi said.

He further ruled that there was no grave injustice shown to be likely to result if the matter proceeds to the defence case.

Chitapi said Muridzo should explain the innocence of the transaction between herself and Mazowi.

Muridzo and Mazowi had cited Makwande and former prosecutor Peter Kachirika as the first and second respondents.

The suspended magistrate was arrested together with Mazowi and a clerk of court at the Karoi Magistrates Court.

Allegations against Muridzo and accomplices that on August 27, 2018, one Sinafi Chidoko, the former wife  Mazowi filed an application for maintenance order for her and two minor children of the union she had with Mazowi.

The claim was for payment of $250 monthly maintenance and the case was set down for hearing on September 11, 2018.

It was alleged that during the month of September, prior to trial, Mazowi and the clerk of court acting in connivance hatched a plan to influence Muridzo to favourably determine the maintenance case in favour of Mazowi.

The state alleged the clerk of court allegedly approached Muridzo and sold the plan to which it was alleged that Muridzo agreed to.

When the matter was heard on September 11, 2018, Muridzo granted the maintenance claim in the sum of $50 against the claimed amount of $250.

It was further alleged that on October 1 2018, Mazowi filed an application against his former wife and Muridzo again ruled in his favour.

It was alleged that on October 2, 2018, Mazowi had initiated an Ecocash transfer of $20 using his Ecocash into the clerk of court’s number.

The clerk of court then transferred all to Muridzo. It was alleged that the said amount was intended to be a reward to Muridzo for having favourably dealt with the second applicant’s cases.

An anonymous caller had tipped Mazowi’s ex-wife that money was exchanging hands amongst the magistrate and that she would never win a case against Mazowi.

The wife reported the matter and investigations followed unearthing that there was indeed a cash transaction between the trio.