Fidelis Munyoro-Chief Court Reporter
The Supreme Court has upheld the acquittal by the High Court of eight former City of Harare top officials who were facing criminal abuse of office charges involving more than $32 million.
Former town clerk, Tendai Mahachi, Simon Takawira Muserere, Christopher Magwenzi Zvobgo, Misheck Mubvumbi, Masiye Kapare, Wilton Janjazi, Pauline Macharangwanda, and Urayayi Mangwiro were cleared of the charges at the High Court two years ago, after the court ruled that their actions were motivated by the need to address a serious cholera crisis.
Following the eight’s acquittal, the State launched an appeal at the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn the lower court’s finding that no evidence of a conclusive nature was presented to show that the council top officials were motivated by the intention to abuse their public office when they obtained the resolution in the defective manner that they did, noting that there might sometimes be a thin line between inefficiency and abuse of office.
The three-judge panel of Justices Lavender Makoni, Nicholas Mathonsi and Alfas Chitakunye unanimously agreed that the appeal lacked merit.
Writing the judgment, Justice Mathonsi agreed with the eight’s legal counsel that in order to trigger interference by the Supreme Court, the State should demonstrate that the factual findings of the lower court were grossly unreasonable that no court faced with the same set of facts and applying its mind to them, would entertain such a view.
In this case, the State failed to meet that threshold.
“To the contrary, the reasoning of the court a quo has not been shown to be one which this court can interfere with,” said Justice Mathonsi.
“The judgment a quo cannot be faulted at all. The guilt of the respondents was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.”
To this end, Justice Mathonsi found that the appeal was without merit.
“In the result, it be and is hereby ordered that the appeal is dismissed,” he said.
They were being accused of awarding tenders to Energy Resources Africa Consortium (ERAC) and Sidal Engineering, which had not participated in the bidding process for rehabilitation of council’s sewerage processing plants.
At the High Court, Justice Amy Tsanga exonerated the eight after the court found that there was a cholera outbreak, which needed a quick response.
While a cholera outbreak had occurred in 2008 and was at its peak in 2009, it was also a fact that unless the sewerage concerns were addressed, cholera remained a deadly threat.