Chief Court Reporter
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has stopped the trial of two women accused of unlawful possession of 26 kilogrammes of raw ivory valued at $6 475 pending the determination of their constitutional challenge in the highest court.
Winnet Munyonga and Chiedza Chiutsi’s trial was stopped last Friday after the presiding magistrate, Mr Tendai Mahwe, was served with a copy of the Chief Justice’s order staying prosecution, pending the outcome of the constitutional application contesting the refusal by the State to disclose the informant in the case.
Chief Justice Chidyausiku granted the urgent chamber application by the defence, led by Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara with the consent of the Prosecutor-General’s Office.
“The proceedings under CRB 15224/15 are temporarily stayed pending the determination of CCZ25/16,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku.
In what is expected to be a landmark case, the issue of disclosing the informant raised in the case has a major impact on how police investigate, and also how the State prosecutes.
In the constitutional matter, the women contend that the prosecution’s refusal to avail the identity of an informant whose evidence precipitated their arrest and prosecution violated their right to information as espoused in Section 62(2) of the Constitution.
They said the magistrate’s decision also violated their right to adduce and challenge evidence as enumerated in Section 70(1)(h), as well as the right to adequate facilities to prepare a defence.
Munyonga (36) and Chiutsi (33) were arrested in December last year when police searched their vehicle and recovered eight uncut pieces of ivory.
The women had parked their car along Robert Mugabe Road, and were searched when they returned to the car some hours later.
Police say they received the information from an unnamed informant.
However, before the women entered their plea, they asked the prosecution to reveal the name of the informant so that he/she could explain how he/she knew they had ivory when they were not aware of its existence in the vehicle.
Allegations against Munyonga and Chiutsi are that on December 12, Detective Assistant Inspector Kufa of CID Drugs picked up information from a reliable informer that the two were in possession of raw ivory.
The court heard that Det Kufa teamed up with Det Sgt Murahwa and reacted to the information.
It is alleged that they rushed to the scene and spotted the vehicle, a gold-coloured Honda CRV, parked along the right side of Robert Mugabe Road.