By Mary Taruvinga
THE state has approached the High Court challenging Harare magistrate Stanford Mambanje’s recent decision to acquit four Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) bosses.
Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi through law officer Tendayi Shonhayi said the magistrate was biased and grossly erred for failing to find the four officials, Felton Kamambo, Farai Jere, Philemon Machana, and Brayton Malandule, had committed a crime.
Hodzi is seeking a review of the magistrate’s ruling and also an order the trial should proceed before a different magistrate.
The four were accused of illegally transferring more than US$160 000 held in the association’s bank account into their private accounts after the ZIFA account had been garnished.
However, in his ruling, Magistrate Mambanje noted the state had failed to prove a prima facie case against the accused as the charge they were facing was not clearly defined, hence the accused could not be put to their defence.
The quartet was freed after making an application of discharge at the close of the state’s case.
The ZIFA bosses had maintained they did not deliberately transfer funds from the association’s account to a conduit account in order to deny Daisy Lodge, which had obtained a garnishee order, access to the money.
However, Hodzi argues they had a case to answer.
“Mambanje’s decision to quash the charges and return a verdict of not guilty against the four was grossly irregular in its defiance of logic that no sensible court having applied its mind would arrive at it,” said Shonhayi in his founding affidavit.
“There was a gross irregularity in the decision to such an extent that the fifth respondent failed to appreciate the nature of the application before him.”
Shonhayi said the magistrate, through his decision, denied the state a constitutionally mandated chance to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The applicant accuses the regional magistrate of lacking probity by rendering a criminal case useless.
“The magistrate failed to appreciate the nature of the application before him and this anomaly created an unlevel playing field for the state as it has been robbed of an opportunity to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said the prosecutor.
“The courts are very strict in applications of this nature and are not quick to grant any relief unless in exceptional and compelling circumstances.
“It is my considered view that my case falls within the realm of exceptional circumstances warranting the honourable court to interfere with the proceedings in my matter which has already been terminated by the magistrate.”