By Mary Taruvinga
FORMER Cabinet Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has once again thrown the case in which he is accused of criminal abuse of office into disarray Tuesday, after he accused the State of ambushing him.
The Nyanga South MP is facing trial for allegedly appointing his personal assistant Tawanda Chinembiri to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) board “unprocedurally”.
Chinembiri is a government employee at deputy director level and the State argues his appointment prejudiced the parastatal of RTGS$35,000 in allowances.
Prosecutor Michael Chakandida had intended to proceed to trial but through his lawyer Thembinkosi Magwaliba, Mandiwanzira complained that he had not been given notice.
“It is the first time in court that I’m being formerly advised of the intention to proceed to trial on the remaining offense. We intended to proceed with an application for variation of the accused bail conditions. There was no indication that the State was going to proceed in respect of second offense,” Magwaliba said.
Magwaliba argued the move would be prejudicial to his client considering that there is an existing court order for stay of proceedings for the charge he is facing.
“There will be double jeopardy to the accused because he was arraigned to face two offenses on one charge sheet.
“In terms of legal costs, he is expected to meet costs for one trial. If the State’s application for recession of a High Court judgment in which criminal abuse of office charges against the accused were quashed, it means he will have to face two trials.”
Mandiwanzira was recently “acquitted” of criminal abuse of office by a High Court Judge who quashed the charge after the State failed to respond.
However the State now argued the “acquittal” was a miscarriage of justice and has since charged a top official with abuse of office.
Mandiwanzira, prosecutors argue had “interests” in Megawatt a South African company, that he allegedly caused State-owned mobile network firm, NetOne, to pay $5 million, being $4 million for the service and $1 million for consultancy.
Prosecutor General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi has since applied for reversal of the judgment in which Mandiwanzira was acquitted.
Chakandida said the two offices were not linked in any way so it was possible to proceed to trail.
“The first count for now remains quashed,” he said.
“But from the look of things count one and two are not linked. Documents which will be used for first count are not the ones to be used on the remaining count,” he said.
The presiding magistrate Elijah Makomo then queried the State with regards to what will happen to the existing charge sheet but the State could not answer before asking for more time to look into that.
Mandiwanzira then applied for release of his passport saying he intends to travel to India for medication as well as China on business.
“The accused’s business must not be hamstrung pending High Court resolution. The accused has nothing to fear and is having his prosecution in a normal way. In the meantime his business must go on,” said Magwaliba.
Chakandida challenged the application saying it was not being done in good faith.
He said Mandiwanzira intended to travel in March and April and the time has already lapsed.
Mandiwanzira’s lawyers had resubmitted the old application.
“His visits were meant for March and April and cannot be said to be pending. For him to seek release of his passport basing on an engagement which is not pending shows that the application is not being made in good faith,” the prosecutor argued.
The matter was rolled over to Wednesday for ruling.