Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
AT least 14 high-profile corruption trials have been stopped for various reasons by the High Court since last year, a development that has sparked public debate on the seriousness by some stakeholders in the criminal justice system in tackling the vice.
The slow progress of the trials has put a drag on the fight, and President Mnangagwa is on record as expressing frustration at the slow progress of bringing corrupt elements to book in the Second Republic, which has adopted a zero tolerance stance on graft as a key deliverable.
Proceedings in most of the cases of graft have been stayed pending review applications filed by defence lawyers while in some cases the accused persons were discharged by the High Court.
The 14 cases in question were presided over by eight different judges of the High Court.
Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabiza has since expressed concern at the rate at which the cases are being stalled before commencement of trial.
Mrs Mabiza said the development has attracted public criticism on the stakeholders’ seriousness in fighting corruption.
“We are concerned with the rate at which high-profile corruption cases are being stalled at a certain stage of the justice delivery system.
“We continue to receive complaints from members of the public who are suspicious of our seriousness in the fight against graft. But it is clear that cases are being brought up and investigated,” said Mrs Mabiza.
Head of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the President’s Office Mr Tabani Mpofu said the cases were progressing well at the magistrates’ courts but stalled at the High Court.
Mr Mpofu said the State will pursue the cases to ensure they are heard in court.
“Yes, there are a number of our cases whose progress at the magistrates’ court has been stalled by decisions in the High Court for one reason or the other.
“Our approach is to pursue them on a case by case basis and we are confident that at the end of the processes that are prescribed by our laws, all the cases will eventually be heard in the magistrates’ court,” said Mr Mpofu.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which employs the judges, refused to comment on proceedings pending at court.
Said JSC acting secretary Mr Walter Chikwana: “As JSC, we do not get involved in matters that are done and pending in court. We do not comment on matters pending in court.”
Three cases in which former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo, former Makoni legislator Kudzanayi Chipanga, and two others are being accused of criminal abuse of office dragged for over a year.
Trial in case numbers R529-30/18, R521/18 and R553/18 was supposed to take off in February 2018 but dragged after the High Court stayed proceedings on July 19 the same year.
The High Court then dismissed the review applications in February this year, almost a year later.
Former Chitungwiza chamber secretary Priscillar Vengesai, who is facing bribery charges under R434/18, had a trial date set for July 25 last year but a High Court judge granted temporary stay of proceedings on November 31.
Heads of argument in the review proceedings are yet to be filed, six months after the granting of the High Court order.
Another judge of the High Court granted an order for temporary stay of the corruption trial of former Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa and permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga on July 24 last year but the review application was only filed on January 7 this year.
The record is not yet ready for allocation with some papers still to be filed.
Proceedings in a case in which former minister Saviour Kasukuwere is being charged with criminal abuse of office under R842/18 were stayed last year but it is yet to be allocated to a judge for review.
Former University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura, charged with criminal abuse of office, unsuccessfully excepted to the charge but filed a review application on April 30 this year, which is yet to be determined.
Former minister Supa Mandiwanzira, who was arrested last year for criminal abuse of office, under case number R990/18, was acquitted by the High Court on one count and had proceedings related to the second count stayed.
The case of Chief Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe was stayed on April 30 this year pending review of the decision to have him tried by his junior. He will now appear at the High Court for trial.
Another case in which former Midlands Governor Jason Machaya is being charged with criminal abuse of office was also stopped on April 2 pending review of the magistrate’s decision.
Businessman Genius Kadungure, who stands accused of fraud, lost his bail application at the magistrates’ court but was freed by the High Court on appeal.
Wicknell Chivayo, a director of Intratrek Zimbabwe, was acquitted by the High Court after a successful exception application.