10 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Muchechetere Applies for Discharge

Suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive Happison Muchechetere yesterday filed an application seeking to have charges against him dropped. He argues the charges are defective and unconstitutional. Muchechetere is facing charges of contravening the Procurement Act emanating from the importation of an Outside Broadcasting van from China.

Muchechetere, who is being represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu instructed by Mr Keith Kachambwa of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha, yesterday appeared before Mr Adonia Masawi before tendering his application for exception to the charges.

The matter was remanded to July 23 when the State, led by Mr Beaven Murevanhema and Ms Farai Zachariah, are expected to respond to the application. Mr Murevanhema had proposed this Friday as the next remand date, but Mr Masawi said the court would be overwhelmed with cases on that day before remanding the matter to July 23.

In the application, Muchechetere says the charge is bad at law and in that case he was entitled to an acquittal without going to trial.

He raised a preliminary point objecting to the charge saying the charge did not disclose an offence cognisable at law. To this end, he says the legislation under which he is charged is constitutionally invalid hence no valid proceedings could depend on such legislation.

If the court rules in his favour, the charges will be quashed thereby setting him free but if he loses, the trial will proceed.

"The charge alleges that ZBC is a procuring entity and that the accused person is its accounting officer. That allegation is heretical as a matter of law as the corporation does not as a matter of law exist. Its disbanding was achieved in 2002 by the enactment of the ZBC (commercialisation) which created two private limited companies," read part of the submissions.

Muchechetere wants the court to decide on the invalidity of the legislation set out under the new Constitution.

"No offence can be created under the regulations. The only offence which can arise in connection with procurement is the offence under Section 48 of the Act. The minister consequently had no power to create the nameless offence under Section 35 of the regulations. The prosecution is consequently founded upon an invalid law," the application reads.

The complainant in the matter is the State Procurement Board represented by Mr Samson Mutanhaurwa.

The State alleges that on January 18 last year, Muchechetere without going through a formal tender, entered into procurement agreement to buy an OB van with the China National Instruments Imports and Exports Corporation at a price of US$1 050 000.

In the agreement, Muchechetere was representing ZBC as the accounting officer.

On June 28, Muchechetere concluded the purchase deal alone, which resulted in the Chinese firm issuing a commercial invoice and the OB van was delivered on August 8.

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