Zimbabwe: Ex-VP Mphoko Trial in False Start

Former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko and his wife Laurinda Mphoko (file photo).
24 January 2020

The trial of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko on charges of abuse of office failed to kick-off yesterday and was deferred to January 30 after he indicated that he was still preparing his defence.

Mphoko, through his lawyer Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara, told the court that although he had prepared a draft defence outline, which he had handed to the State, he still needed more time.

The former VP is facing criminal abuse of office charges after he reportedly ordered the release of former Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) acting chief executive Moses Juma and ex-board member Davison Norupiri from Avondale Police Station who had been arrested in 2016 for the same offence.

Mphoko said his lawyers failed to prepare the full defence outline as they were under the impression that they would make an application for direct access to the Constitutional Court.

"I am not prepared to proceed to trial at this point in time," he said.

"I had not finalised the defence outline, but I have tendered a draft defence outline with the State. I would like to confess that I needed time to deal with this aspect. I pray that I be given time to prepare the defence."

Mphoko attributed his delay in finalising his defence to the failure to get a transcribed record of proceedings, which he needed for the Concourt application.

He said the Concourt application was necessary because four other applications in the lower court had been unsuccessful.

The State led by Mr Lovetti Masuku initially opposed the postponement, saying they furnished Mphoko with all the court papers in time for him to prepare his defence.

"When the court ruled against referral to the Concourt, the defence did not take any issue at that time," he said.

"They should have instantly requested for the record to be transcribed.

"What we agreed was the trial date was today. The State is ready to proceed to trial."

Mr Masuku also argued that Mphoko failed to notify the court about the Concourt application.

"We are prepared to proceed with trial as long as they give us their defence outline," he said.

"We had served them with papers on October 9, 2019."

After being furnished with the draft defence outline, the State agreed to postpone the matter with Harare regional magistrate Mr Hoseah Mujaya setting January 30 as the trial date.

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