By Mary Taruvinga
THE National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has requested that the testimony by vice president Constantino Chiwenga against his estranged wife, Marry Mubaiwa in the fraud marriage case be heard in camera.
Prosecutor Tafara Chirambira told Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube that the case was “too private” for the former army general to testify in an open court.
Chirambira also said Chiwenga’s office should be respected through holding the hearing in a closed court as the two come face to face for the first time since their fallout.
This comes after eight witnesses gave their testimony in the fast-tracked trial which commenced last week only leaving Chiwenga who is the complainant.
Chiwenga who also doubles up as the health minister is accusing Mubaiwa of fraudulently trying to upgrade their customary marriage without his knowledge.
While making the application, Chirambira said as much as politicians like Chiwenga want to address the public, it was impossible in this case.
“The matter before the court is a private matter involving the VP of this country. I cannot overemphasize the importance of the office he holds. In that vein, the state makes the application bearing in mind the nature of the private matter before this court,” he said.
He added, “We do not know what the witness will say. We can’t predict that but at the same time we do know the office he occupies and the need to protect the same, it is on that backdrop that the state submits that no prejudice will be suffered by either party, state and defence privacy is involved for that particular witness.
Chirambira said the main issue is that the interests of justice must prevail.
“Whether this is done in a public forum or restricted forum it does not affect how it’s done. We thus submit that the order we seek the court to grant is not prejudicial to both parties and it should find favour with the court.”
In response Mubaiwa’s lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Sithothombe argued that no one is above the law.
“All persons are equal before the law, there is no need to give the VP preferential treatment when it is clear that rule of law forms part of the law. This application which seeks to elevate the VP above all other persons ought to fail, “said the lawyers.
“The application lacks merit and should be dismissed because considering that the accused enjoys the right to a fair trial in terms of Section 69(I) of the Constitution which guarantees her a fair and public trial. Still on that, it must be noted that this right to a fair trial which the accused enjoys is absolute in terms of Section 86 (iii).
The defence said the Supreme Court has commented on the importance of the right to a public trial.
They submitted that witnesses whose evidence is open to the public are more meticulous due to criticism they are likely to face.
“Publicity is the soul of the rule of law,” Mtetwa said.
The state insisted that rights can be limited.
The magistrate is expected to hand down his ruling on the application by the state this Thursday.