via Dinha seeks de-classification of State secrets | The Herald October 31, 2015
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Minister Martin Dinha yesterday requested the de-classification of certain State secrets which he wants to use in sorting out his defence in his trial on extortion charges at the High Court.
He appeared before Justice Happias Zhou where he made an application to postpone the trial in which he is accused of extorting a white commercial farmer of $60 000 as protection fee against eviction.
Adv Dinha said the trial could not continue until he is allowed to use the State secrets, which are protected by the Official Secrets Act, as part of his defence.
He made the application through his lawyer, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, instructed by Mr Tapson Dzvetero of Antonio and Dzvetero Legal Practitioners.
Justice Zhou heard submissions from both parties’ counsel and reserved ruling to Tuesday next week.
“I need sufficient time to consider submissions by both parties counsel,” said Justice Zhou. “I reserve the ruling to Tuesday next week at 3pm. The matter is adjourned to that time on Tuesday.”
Adv Mpofu told Justice Zhou that at the previous case management meeting, the State undertook to facilitate the de-classification of documents which Dinha wants to use in the trial, but yesterday they were singing a different tune.
“I indicated that there are critical documents that I need to have sight of to prepare the defence outline and summary of evidence of the potential witnesses,” said Adv Mpofu. “Those documents have not been made available to me because of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act.
He said the defence provided the State with a list of 14 documents that it intended to study.
“Among the documents sought are security documents relating to a security meeting that took place between the complainant, accused and officials from the President’s Office,” he said.
“The documents are essential in crafting of the defence outline. In this case, it will be proper to allow the de-classification process be finalised before the trial commences.”
The State, led by Mr Clemence Chimbari, opposed the application, saying the defence contention was deliberate tactic to delay the commencement of the trial.
He said they had ample time to request for the documents from the time Dinha was indicted for trial in August. Mr Chimbari urged the court to dismiss the application and order the trial to proceed.
“The State was not aware of what documents the defence intended to use,” said Mr Chimbari, adding, “It was not the State’s position that it would assist in facilitating the de-classification of documents since it was not aware of the documents.”
The State, said Mr Chimbari, only became aware of the nature of documents after they received the defence’s list of requirements on Tuesday this week.
He said the documents being requested by the defence were not in their possession, but in custody of third parties.
Mr Chimbari said police had obtained evidence enough to prove the State’s case beyond reasonable doubt and had nothing to do with the requested documents.
In his response, Adv Mpofu said the function of the prosecution was not to gather evidence which it thinks was suffice to secure a conviction of suspects while ignoring contrary evidence which could also be strong in favour of the person they seek to convict.
He said the speed at which the State was moving in breach of his client’s rights was alarming.
The State, he said, had an obligation to place before the court all documents necessary for the accused to use in his defence.
“The Formula One kind of speed at which the State is going should be frowned upon,” said Adv Mpofu.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Justice Zhou reserved the ruling to next week.
Dinha (53) is being charged with criminal abuse of office or alternatively bribery.
The minister – who is also facing money laundering charges – was granted $1 000 bail by Bindura provincial magistrate Mr Elisha Singano.
He allegedly demanded $60 000 from Mr Guy Frank Dollar as protection fee against eviction from his Tzoro Farm in the Centenary area.
The court heard that Tzoro Farm was subdivided into plots allocated to several beneficiaries in June 2012.
It is alleged that between 2012 and March 28, 2013 Dollar faced problems with new farmers allocated A2 plots on the farm and Dinha was allegedly advised by an official identified as Saineti Magore Madzamba.
He then instructed Madzamba that Dollar should pay $60 000 for him to save and protect him.
After being put under pressure, Dollar looked for the money and met Madzamba at Rumhanje Farm in Centenary.
Dollar handed over a plastic bag containing $60 000 to Madzamba who allegedly phoned Dinha advising him that he had received the money.
Madzamba was instructed to hand over the money to Tsitsi Nyika, who is a friend to Dinha’s wife since he was in China.
It is alleged that the same day, Dinha’s wife phoned and instructed Nyika to take $40 000 from the money and deposit it into Dinha’s POSB Bank account number 117670000067.
After a day, Dinha phoned Dollar advising him that he was back from China, thanking him for the money.
After two weeks, Dollar met Dinha and he thanked him again, saying he gave the money to a higher authority.
It is alleged that Dinha also promised Dollar that an offer letter for his farm was being processed.
On April 17, 2013 Dinha allegedly transferred $30 000 from his POSB account number into his other account number 117310004276 with the same bank.
On several occasions, Dinha withdrew money from the account and left only $1 012, 29 hence he is also accused of money laundering.
The court heard that Dinha abused his position as Mashonaland Central Governor and Resident Minister as well as chairperson of the Provincial Lands Committee.