Senior Court Reporter
FORMER Cabinet Minister Prisca Mupfumira has applied for separation of trial in a matter in which she is jointly charged with ex-Public Service Commission (PSC) permanent Secretary Ngoni Masoka on corruption-related allegations, saying she wants her co-accused to be her defence star witness.
Mupfumira, in her application prepared by lawyer Mr Admire Rubaya, said she wants their trial separated so that she will be able to call Masoka to testify in her corner.
She told the court that Masoka was the accounting officer in the Ministry of Public Service and he is the best person to explain the roles she played during her tenure in office as Minister. Mupfumira and Masoka are facing two counts of criminal abuse office and concealing a transaction from a principal.
The case involves a US$90 000 loan allegedly obtained from NSSA, which they used to purchase a Toyota Land Cruiser utility vehicle instead of a Mercedes Benz.
The also allegedly ordered the purchase of air tickets worth US$10 215 to attend a wedding in South Africa and R113 559 for accommodation. They both denied the charges when the trial opened.
In the application made before Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi, Mupfumira said: “The second accused person (Masoka) was the accounting officer in the Ministry of Labour. He was the head of administration that makes him the critical person to explain the role played by the first accused (Mupfumira), if any, on the issues that are before the court.
“The second accused (Masoka) is the first accused (Mupfumira) star witness. He is the only person who is able to articulate clearly the role played by first accused person. As a co-accused person the second accused cannot be forced to testify in the first accused’s case.”
Mupfumira said Masoka is the only person able to explain how payments for air tickets to South Africa were made and whether she was the one who requested the money.
She said Masoka is the one who is able to explain the roles played by the finance director and the principal director when the said transactions were made. In her application, Mupfumira said Masoka is the only person who can explain whether she played a role in the preparation of letters addressed to CMED in 2017. Mupfumira also wants Masoka to tell the court about letters written to CMED general manager in July 2017, Chief Secretary to the Office of President and Cabinet in, Secretary for Finance and Economic Development, ZIMRA, General Manager NSSA among other letters.
“All these documents are alleged to have been authored by second accused,” she said.
Mupfumira said she will lose the right to compel Masoka to testify in her corner once they remain jointly charged.
She said the State will suffer no prejudice if the trial are separated since each of them could be separately tried by the same magistrate or have different courts.
“A refusal to separate in the circumstances of this case at this stage will lead to an unfair trial against the first accused. There is no prejudice that will be suffered by the co-accused person or the State because the same judicial office can deal with the matter separately.
“It is in the best interest justice for these two trial to be separated because if trials are not separated the first accused will suffer insurmountable prejudice.
“Therefore, the first accused applies to be separated from the second accused person so that she can properly call the second accused person as a witness in her defence case.
“In as much as the State may want to finalise these anti-corruption cases these accused persons are still entitled to equal protection and benefit of the law.
“The Second Republic is a constitutionally elected Government which thrives on respecting the rule of law thus the State ought in its endeavour to prosecute accused persons, accused person’s constitutional rights, more specifically an accused right to a fair trial,” she said. Mupfumira is expected back in court on April 20 when the State makes its submissions.
Meanwhile, former Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo has put the State on notice that if it fails to commence trial on April 29, he would apply for refusal of further remand.
This was after the State had applied for the matter to be postponed to the date in question.
Moyo is being charged for his alleged involvement in NatPharm’s unprocedural contract with Drax International LLC to supply medicines and surgical sundries, and is consequently facing criminal abuse of office charges.