HARARE – The High Court yesterday declined to entertain a referral to the superior court for review of a case that was submitted by Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa — who recently granted opposition kingpin Tendai Biti permission to have his trial live-streamed on media platforms.
This comes after Takundwa had suggested to the High Court that she might have made a mistake by granting Biti the permission — a decision which stirred controversy as it coincided with the eye-brow raising criticism that prosecutor Michael Reza had directed at her, describing her as either “very brave or very stupid or both” for making the referral.
High Court judge Joseph Musakwa told Takundwa yesterday to live with her decision, as he declined to review her earlier decision.
“It follows that where a magistrate errs or blunders, he or she must live with that error unless one of the parties before the court moves to take corrective action.
“I also note in passing that the trial magistrate granted live-streaming to unspecified media houses. Apart from that, there are no conditions governing the live-streaming.
“It is also apparent that despite the State having opposed the application, it does not seem to be aggrieved by the order,” Justice Musakwa said.
“One can only imagine how the High Court will be clogged with such cases if magistrates routinely refer cases for review at every turn where they believe that they have erred.
“It is akin to seeking legal opinion from the High Court. It is an established principle that superior courts only interfere in unterminated proceedings in exceptional cases.
“I have not seen any provision that empowers a magistrate who thinks he or she has erred to refer such a matter for review by the High Court.
“The ruling granting live-streaming comprises two sentences and that in such an important matter, detailed reasons should have been given,” Musakwa added.
Biti is facing two charges of violating the Electoral Act after he allegedly made an unofficial or allegedly false declaration of poll results, for the highly contested July 30 national elections.
On Monday, he applied for permission to have the trial broadcast and Takundwa duly granted it before making a dramatic U-turn on Tuesday, after Reza had railed against her decision in a message which he erroneously sent to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s lawyer, Thabani Mpofu.
The message was meant for former prosecutor Thabani Mpofu, who now heads the anti-corruption unit which is housed in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office.
Biti’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa brought the matter to light when she pressed for contempt of court charges against Reza for denigrating Takundwa — who, until then, was not aware that she had been savaged for her decision granting the opposition figure his request for live-streaming of his case.
Mtetwa read out the message in court, leaving the gallery in stitches.
“Cde Mpofu. It’s Reza, how are you? Another strange ruling by the magistrate trying Tendai Biti. They applied for live-streaming of the case, with cameras and journalists in court and proceedings beamed all over the world.
“She has just agreed to that without authority of her boss the Chief Justice (Luke Malaba). She is either very brave or very stupid or both, kkkkkk,” read the controversial message by Reza.