Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
THE trial of former Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Jason Machaya, Mashonaland West provincial administrator Cecilia Chitiyo and six other senior Government officials facing allegations of illegally allocating State land has been postponed to March 14.
Machaya (65), Chitiyo (50), who is also the former PA for the Midlands province, Matilda Manhambo (59), Sherpard Marweyi (48), Sifelani Moyo (59), Ethel Mlalazi (65), Chisainyerwa Chibhururu (47) and Everest Nyamadzawo (33) appeared before Bulawayo Regional Magistrate Mrs Sibongile Msipa-Marondedze facing charges of illegally allocating more than 11 000 stands to land developers.
They are also facing criminal abuse of office charges.
Mrs Msipa-Marondedze deferred the matter to March 14.
She said the period was to allow the High Court to make a determination on the application for review of a ruling against permanent stay of prosecution she made which had been made by defence lawyers when the matter commenced on Monday.
“The defence on Monday made an application for permanent stay of prosecution which the court ruled against.
“The defence then applied for postponement of the matter to another date to make an application for review of the court’s ruling at the High Court and subsequently a Chamber application for stay of proceedings pending determination of application for review. The matter is therefore remanded to March 14,” she said.
Ruling against the application of permanent stay of prosecution made by the defence lawyers, Mrs Msipa-Marondedze said it was frivolous and vexatious.
“The defence applied for stay of prosecution and the application is frivolous and vexatious. Some of the charges are from 2004 to 2015 and the only time which can be said to be too long for accused to go on trial is from the period they are arrested to the time they appear in court.
“In this case they were arrested in February last year and brought to court in December. So the court ruled against the application,” she said.
However, Machaya’s lawyer, Mr Alec Muchadehama, representing all the other defence lawyers, accused the court of being biased and gross incompetence, allegations the State refuted.
“The court ignored pertinent issues with regard to the application of stay of prosecution and fell for the State trap to disregard the pre-charging or pre- arrest period of the accused people.
“The ruling by the court shows bias and gross irregularity in justice system,” he said.
Mr Muchadehama then applied for referral of the matter to the Constitutional Court, arguing that there were constitutional issues arising from the matter, more particularly a right to a fair hearing allegedly being infringed as a result of delay taken by the State in arresting the accused persons and charging them for matters which were allegedly in the public domain since 2004.
Mr Andrew Kumire, for the State, said they were ready for trial which, however, failed to take place.
Machaya is out on $1 000 bail while Chitiyo, Manhambo, Marweyi, Moyo, Mlalazi, Chibhururu and Nyamadzawo are out on $200 bail each.
It is the State’s case that Chitiyo, who was employed as the PA for Midlands province, allegedly intentionally allocated State land totalling 4 469 stands to land developers by co-signing offer letters for the State land with Machaya.
Manhambo, who was employed as the provincial projects officer by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, allegedly allocated 2 000 stands to land developers and entities working in cahoots with Machaya.
Similarly, Marweyi, who is the district administrator for Gweru, allegedly allocated 5 199 stands to land developers also working in cahoots with Machaya.
Nyamadzawo, who is an administrative officer, is accused of unlawfully writing a survey instruction letter to the Surveyor-General, instructing his office to nominate a surveyor for the State land, knowing fully well that Government had not allocated that land.
Survey instructions, the State argues, can only be written in respect of State land allocated to persons and entities by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
Chibhururu, Moyo and Mlalazi are facing abuse of office charges.