By NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE trial of a Plumtree car dealer accused of stealing an imported vehicle was postponed last week after a prosecutor, who was dealing with the case requested to be recused from the matter claiming she is now conflicted.
Plumtree car dealer Sharmaine Mlambo (33) appeared before Plumtree regional magistrate Innocent Bepura last Wednesday for the start of her trial on charges of stealing a Honda Fit vehicle belonging to Marita Mangani (36) who had imported it from neighbouring South Africa.
Mlambo, using her links with clearing agents at the border post and at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), reportedly cleared the vehicle and paid all duty fees without Mangani’s knowledge.
The offence, which was committed between March 20 and 23 only came to light when Mangani went to the Plumtree Border Post to collect her new wheels only to find it had been cleared and taken away.
Police recovered the vehicle in Harare at Tafadzwa Chidewe’s residence.
In November 2019, Chidewe was cited in a ZIMRA public notice as among other individuals, who had imported a total of 433 cars under unclear circumstances.
On Wednesday, Mangani was the first to take to the witness stand before Bepura while Dorothy Kanengoni prosecuted.
However, after lunch the prosecutor in charge of Plumtree Robin Mukura told the magistrate that her junior had recused herself from the case as he sought a postponement of the trial, a development that the accused’s lawyer described as ‘strange.’
“Due to latest developments, it is the state’s application that the matter be postponed as (developments) came as a matter of urgency.
“She has suddenly fallen ill and she has also highlighted to authorities that she has found herself conflicted in this matter; that she cannot proceed with it anymore,” Mukura said in his application for postponement.
The accused’s lawyer Thamani Ncube was not amused.
“We are amenable to postponement, but the explanation preferred does not make sense on the part that the prosecutor is now conflicted with this matter,” Ncube said.
“In what way, maybe if we can get some clarity on why this prosecutor is now conflicted?
“We understand that she has fallen ill as no one has control over health matters, but on the conflicted part thus where we seek clarity, but in any case we are amenable to postponement.”
No reasons were cited as to why Kanengoni is conflicted.
According to the state’s case, Mlambo is accused of having obtained a proforma invoice pertaining to Mangani’s vehicle that she bought on March 1 at CarMax Africa, a private company based in Durban, South Africa to facilitate its clearance.
Mlambo later fixed the pre-clearance of the vehicle at Zimra Plumtree Border Post and paid duty before driving away with it, leading to the matter being reported to police, leading to her arrest.
“On March 23, the accused did import pre-clearance of the complainant’s motor vehicle at Zimra Plumtree Border Post and paid duty in that regard.
“On 30 March, complainant’s motor vehicle arrived at Plumtree border post under the complainant’s name according to the customs and excise cargo manifest and was altered by the accused into her name.
“The accused went on to process the final clearance and took into her own possession complaint’s motor vehicle without her consent.”
Mlambo is facing theft charges as defined in section 113(1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act).
Cases of vehicle smuggling are rampant with Zimbabwe seen as a transit route for vehicles stolen in South Africa for re-sale in countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and other regional countries.