14 January 2019

Zimbabwe: High Court Orders Halt to Ex-Minister's Trial

The High Court has stopped the trial of former mines minister Walter Chidhakwa and his then permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga after they complained about the magistrate and prosecutor handling the case.

Chidhakwa and Gudyanga approached the High Court last year complaining that prosecutor Michael Chakandida of the Special Anti-corruption Unit had no authority to prosecute them.

They are also seeking a review on Harare magistrate Nyasha Vhitorini decision to continue handling the case despite their complaint over his appointment.

"All of a sudden, Chivasa (the magistrate who initially handled the case) has disappeared despite presiding over the case four times and her disappearance has not been explained," the duo complained through defence lawyer Sylvester Hashiti.

"There is clear reason to suspect that you your worship (Vhitorini) has been brought in by the system as a device to deny the accused a fair hearing."

The accused further expressed concerns over allegations that the magistrate and prosecutors handling the case were involved in a $20,000 bribery storm.

Magistrate Vhitorini refused to recuse himself from the case insisting that he was not showing any bias.

After that Chidhakwa and Gudyanga approached the High Court for review.

The High Court then ordered the magistrate to stop proceedings.

"It is ordered that the trial pending before the lower court is stayed pending the determination of the urgent chamber application HC82/19," wrote the High Court.

Chidhakwa is being accused of appointing Gudyanga a lone board member for the Mines and Minerals Cooperation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), a parastatal within the mines ministry.

For his part, Gudyanga is accused of sitting in the board alone, unlawfully pocketing over $20 000 in allowances.

The case was postponed to January 30 to allow the High Court to make a ruling on their requests.

The magistrate said the case should proceed to the trial on that date if the High Court dismisses the duo's application.

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