Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
A Harare magistrate has quashed criminal charges against Delta Beverages (Pvt) Ltd for selling liquor without an agent liquor licence.
The multi national company was relieved of the charges after Harare magistrate Mr Noel Mupeiwa upheld an exception to the charge raised by the company’s lawyer.
Delta and its two drivers, Tobias Senzere and Freddy Nchenje, were facing a charge of selling liquor without an agent liquor licence. The allegations were that they were found selling liquor to liquor outlets while they were not holders of an agent liquor licence.
Prosecutor Ms Francesca Mukumbiri alleged that in terms of Section 113 as read with Section 31 of the Liquor Act (Chapter 14:12) they were not allowed to sell liquor to the liquor licence holders at the premises of the liquor licence holders.
Through their lawyer, Advocate Sylvester Hashiti, Delta applied to have the indictment quashed in terms of Sections 170 and 178 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act on the grounds that the cited sections did not create an offence in relation to the facts stated by the prosecution.
Mr Mupeiwa granted the application for exception and quashed the charges against Delta and its drivers. He ruled that Delta possessed a wholesale liquor licence which authorises it to sell liquor from their premises.
“There is no law which prohibits accused 1 (Delta) to deliver the liquor to the premises of the purchasers,” said Mr Mupeiwa.
He said Senzere and Nchenje were working for Delta and employed to deliver liquor to the company’s customers.
The magistrate also referred to the High Court ruling in case number HC 10159/15. In that case, the higher court ruled in a similar matter that wholesale liquor licence holders did not require their drivers to hold an agent’s liquor licence for them to deliver liquor to other holders of such a licence.
The High Court interdicted the State from arresting Delta’s drivers on the basis that they required an agent’s liquor licence to deliver liquor to other holders of liquor licences.
“If the High Court has already ruled after considering the same facts, which are now before me, it means that this court being a subordinate court to the High Court cannot purport to be starting afresh to determine an issue which has been decided by the High Court,” said Mr Mupeiwa.
“In fact, the High Court has already set a precedence which all subordinate courts must follow. I am therefore satisfied that the conduct of the accused of delivering liquor to their customers does not constitute an offence.”
Mr Mupeiwa said to sanction a trial under the circumstances would be a sheer waste of the court’s time and resources because the High Court order would still be there as a precedent which the court must follow.
“The court therefore orders that the charges are hereby quashed and the exception upheld,” said Mr Mupeiwa.