Gushungo bomb suspects’ trial to be heard in camera

Gushungo bomb suspects’ trial to be heard in camera | The Herald April 12, 2016

Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter—
Lawyers representing two of the suspects accused of attempting to overthrow the Government through unconstitutional means successfully applied to have the treason proceedings held in camera. The defence team, Mr Shingai Mutumbwa and Mrs Gamuchira Dzitiro, recently approached the lower court armed with a High Court order barring the media from covering proceedings of the case.

The lawyers appeared before magistrate Mr Elijah Makomo as they wanted to make an application for refusal of further remand in respect of Silas Pfupa (37) and Solomon Makumbe (29).

Mr Makomo cleared the gallery and ordered that the matter be held in camera. The defence team had initially appeared before Harare provincial magistrate Mr Vakayi Chikwekwe, who declared the order null and void

Mr Chikwekwe dismissed it as of no legal effect arguing that the Higher Court should not interfere with the independence of the lower court. “The conduct of the Registrar of the High Court and the purported order is a nullity. It is tantamount to interference with the independence of this court enshrined in the Constitution. It is also tantamount to directing the court to convict or acquit. This is not proper. The order is not legally binding and amounting to interference and usurping the powers of this court,” he said.

However, Mr Makomo thought otherwise and endorsed the order before hearing the application in camera.

This now means that the media and any other person cannot follow the proceedings of this case.

According to the order by Justice Lavender Makoni, members of the public including members of the media “shall be excluded from the proceedings arising from CRB 1838/41 except for the parties’ witnesses and their legal representatives.”

“Any oral, written, transcribed or electronically stored record of proceedings including the present urgent chamber application, State papers, defence outlines, pleadings and trial proceedings and any ancillary and interlocutory proceedings shall not be accessible or made available to any person save for the parties and their legal practitioners,” said Justice Makoni.

Justice Makoni also ordered that the record of proceedings both in the urgent application and any matter arising from the case should not be disseminated or reported in any media whether private or public, manual or electronic mail or by Internet.

Zimbabwe People’s Front political party president Owen Kuchata (34), Borman Ngwenya (30), Makumbe and Pfupa are facing treason charges.

Pfupa and Makumbe are attached to 1 Field Regiment and Zimbabwe Intelligence Corps, respectively. The quartet allegedly established a militia training base in Mapinga, Mashonaland West Province, where they planned to commit terror acts, sabotage and banditry.

On January 1, this year, they allegedly proceeded to President Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba where they carried out reconnaissance identifying suitable vulnerable points to sabotage.

Meanwhile, Ngwenya – who is also accused of attempting to petrol-bomb the First Family’s Alpha Omega Dairy Farm – maintained that it was a military-sanctioned operation and he had been tasked by his superiors from the Zimbabwe National Army to monitor and trap the culprit, Kuchata.

Ngwenya intends to call Pfupa and Makumbe as his defence witnesses in the case. His lawyer, Mr Exactly Mangezi, successfully applied to have the matter remanded to a later date saying that he wanted time to interview Pfupa and Makumbe first before putting them on the stand.

He also said that the questions he wants to put to the investigating officer who is still on the witness stand, can only be done after he has spoken with the two. The matter was remanded to April 13.