Lawyer Thabani Mpofu was granted $20 000 bail yesterday after Chief Magistrate Mr Munamato Mutevedzi rejected a recommendation by prosecutor Mr Michael Reza that bail should be denied because defence lawyers and others had commented on social media platforms.
Mpofu is being charged with corruptly concealing a transaction from a principal and two counts of defeating or obstructing the course of justice with alternative charges of fraud and perjury.
Mr Reza, who was being assisted by Mr Loveit Masuku and Ms Tendai Shonhiwa, said commenting on issues that were sub judice was unacceptable and aimed at putting unnecessary pressure on the courts.
He referred to a video circulated on social media showing Mr Mpofu’s lawyer, Ms Beatrice Mtetwa, denying the allegations and to comments from the Law Society of Zimbabwe reportedly calling for his release.
“I find it to be irregular considering there is a principle of sub judice,” said Mr Reza.
“In that video, they gave a defence outline and a judgment saying the proceedings were irregular. I would have expected better from the speaker whom I believe is the accused’s defence lawyer and if she is not, I ask for forgiveness in advance. The reasons for doing that was to put pressure on the court.”
Mr Reza said the video might have persuaded people that no offence could have been committed, while the Law Society of Zimbabwe posted a comment part of which read, “free that man”.
In opposing bail, Mr Reza said Mpofu exhibited a predisposition to abscond trial after he failed to report to police upon request. There was overwhelming evidence against him in the form of affidavits.
Ms Mtetwa argued that Mpofu could not abscond considering that the matter had been under investigation since early last year.
She said the State had a weak case as it did not clearly spell out how he committed the alleged offences.
“It is not in dispute that this matter was under investigation since last year. Nothing has been put before you to show that he would do anything as alleged,” said Ms Mtetwa.
Granting Mpofu the $20 000 bail, Mr Mutevedzi ordered him to report once a week at Highlands Police Station and to return to court on 10 July for routine remand.