Supa Mandiwanzira trial in false start

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By Court Reporter

THE trial of former Information Communication Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira failed to take off Monday after he was “ambushed” with state papers minutes before his trial.

The Zanu PF legislator for Nyanga South complained over the state’s “inefficiency” and successfully applied for postponement through his lawyer, Advocate Brian Hungwe.

Hungwe told the presiding magistrate that he needed time to peruse the papers and contact “a number of witnesses who live outside the country”.

“Defence have objections to the case starting today for the following reasons; accused was arrested on November 7, 2018, the assumption arising as a result of the arrest is that the police would have completed their investigations upon his appearance on the very day,” said Hungwe.

“The state has been very inefficient. Why should the state’s inefficiency prejudice the accused person.

“This honourable court was advised by the state and, with all due respect, we agreed with the state that the trial begins on December 10.

“On that day, the defence was advised that the state papers would be ready within a week. Those papers were never availed to the defence until the accused person appeared for the second routine hearing.”

Hungwe suggested that the trial be pushed to January 28 2019.

Mandiwanzira is facing criminal abuse of office charges after he allegedly favoured Megawatt, a company he had interests in, with a consultancy contract without following procedure.

He is also accused of appointing his personal assistant, Tawanda Chinembiri to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) board.

On his initial appearance, Mandiwanzira was granted a trial date with the state indicating he was going to be served with papers within a week.

“The papers were never availed,” said Hungwe.

He again appeared in court again on November 20 for his routine remand with the state promising to furnish him within a few days.

“I don’t know what a few days meant. For the record, we only got these papers today, to be precise an hour ago.”

Hungwe complained that the police should investigate to arrest, adding that despite this cardinal rule, the state had one month to complete investigations before his trial.

In his response, Prosecutor Michael Chakandida of the special anti-corruption unit confirmed that he indeed served the accused with the papers late

He however indicated that it was beyond his control and blamed his superiors for giving the papers late.

“Indeed, the accused has been furnished with state paper this morning because of circumstances that were beyond my control as a trial prosecutor,’ he said.

Chakandida however opposed the accused’s suggestions and said the trial should start next week.

Magistrate Mapfumo conceded to the application by Hungwe but said trial must start on December 18 as the accused had a right to fair trial.

“There is nowhere it can start today. Accused has right to fair trial. The matter should be given trial date but that date cannot be next year. January is too far away. The court is not going to accede to such date,” he said.