Court dismisses Mandiwanzira charges

BusinessTimes

Former Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira is a free man after the court Friday dismissed abuse of office charges.

Prosecutor George Manokore admitted the State had for the second time in two months failed to bring in amended charges against the former minister.

The court then ruled that Mandiwanzira be removed from remand ending nearly two years of court battles.

Mandiwanzira had been accused of abusing his office after he allegedly seconded Tawanda Chinembiri to the board of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in Zimbabwe without due process when he was ICT minister.

Chinembiri was an employee of government and his position was equivalent to a deputy director in the ministry.

But, the charge gave an impression that Chinembiri was not an employee of government.

A contract, however, confirmed that Chinembiri was indeed an employee of government.

Mandiwanzira was also alleged to have engaged a South African company, Megawatt Company, to carry out consultancy work for NetOne without due process.  Consequently, the Nyanga South Member of Parliament initiative to engage Megawatt led to the recovery of US$30m after Megawatt unearthed overpricing by a Chinese company.

 In court Friday, Manokore admitted that when he took over the matter as prosecutor he had underestimated the detail around the case and having now thoroughly perused the file they were difficulties in coming up with amended charges.

 “Having taken over the matter from a different team we went through the State papers as was directed by the court but your Worship we believe that we underestimated the issues which we were supposed to deal with before we prepared the charge sheet and having seen some issues that we need to attend to we then resorted Your Worship, as an office to have adequate time [to] apply our minds and see the way forward on the matter,” Manokore said.

“As the State your Worship we have no problem with the accused person being removed from remand.”

He added: “We had promised that we would come up with amended charges as was directed by the court. We had made an undertaking. Your worship, we promised that we will amend the charges as directed by the court. We had actually made an undertaking to the defense that we will amend the charges seven days before this day, today, and we were put on notice that if we fail to adhere to the direction of the court the court will remove the accused person from remand as indications are that the matter has taken long before commencing.”

Representing Mandiwanzira, Harare lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe of Chimwamurombe Legal Practice had argued in court that Mandiwanzira had been brought to court on a false premise that he appointed someone who was not an employee of government. He said the State, by providing contrary evidence, proved that they had no case against Mandiwanzira and a decision by the court to ask the State to amend the charge was a miscarriage of justice.

“You cannot amend a nullity and you can’t put something on nothing,” he had argued in court.

 Mandiwanzira had been on remand since 2018 following his arrest for allegedly abusing his office while he was minister.

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