FORMER Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security minister Supa Mandiwanzira was yesterday removed from remand by a Harare magistrate after the State failed to amend his charges and provide a trial date.
By Desmond Chingarande
Prosecutor George Manokore told magistrate Estere Chivasa that the State had failed to amend the charges in time for the matter to be provided with a trial date for the second time in two months.
Chivasa then removed Mandiwanzira from remand, ending two years of court battles.
Mandiwanzira was facing charges of criminal abuse of office for allegedly appointing Tawanda Chinembiri on to the board of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe when “he was not an employee of government”.
The State, however, provided a contract that confirmed Chinembiri as an employee of government, thereby weakening the case. The records confirming Chinembiri was employed by the Public Service Commission were produced following an application for further particulars.
“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 would amend the charges as directed by the court. We had actually made an undertaking to the defence that we will amend the charges seven days before this day, (yesterday), 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.”
Mandiwanzira’s lawyer Fungai Chimwamurombe had argued that his client was brought to court on a false premise.
He said the State, by providing contrary evidence, proved that it 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 argued.Mandiwanzira had clocked two years on remand after he was arrested in 2018 on two counts of criminal abuse of office.
In the first charge, Mandiwanzira was accused of illegally engaging Megawatt Energy to investigate corruption at NetOne without going to tender.The charge was quashed by the then High Court judge Justice Nicholas Manthonsi last year.
But Mandiwanzira’s lawyer argued that the Nyanga South MP’s involvement in the Megawatt deal actually led to the recovery of more than US$30 million after Megawatt Energy unearthed overpricing of equipment by over US$100 million on Chinese-supplied telecommunication equipment.