Mphoko’s obstruction of justice trial continues Phelekezela Mphoko

THE trial of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko on charges of abusing public office by forcing the release of two officials arrested on corruption charges, will continue after the Supreme Court upheld a High Court judgment dismissing his appeal against the refusal by the magistrates’ court to discharge him at the close of the State case.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mphoko’s appeal lacked merit.

Mphoko’s application for discharge at the close of the State case was initially dismissed by the magistrates’ court and he appealed to the High Court which also threw it out, prompting him to approach the Supreme Court for relief.

Allegations against Mphoko, who was the sitting Vice President of Zimbabwe and hence a public officer at the time of the alleged commission of the offence, are that he abused his office by going to Avondale Police Station and unlawfully ordered the release of Moses Juma and Davison Norupiri, who were Zinara executives.

Juma was the former Zinara acting chief executive and board member, while Norupiri was the finance committee chairperson and had been arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission for fraud and criminal abuse of office on May 6, 2016.

“The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the basis that it lacked merit. The matter has been referred back to the Harare Magistrates’ Court for continuation of trial,” said the National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe in a statement.

In dismissing Mphoko’s case, the High Court had ruled that the prosecution in the magistrates’ court had managed to establish a prima facie case against him.

The case against Juma involved the hand-picking of a tax consultancy company on a US$500 000 contract without going to tender as required.

He was rearrested in 2018 and sentenced to 30 months imprisonment of which six months were conditionally suspended, leaving him to serve an effective two years.

Juma appealed to the High Court and was granted $5 000 bail, but the appeal was struck off after the judges ruled that his grounds of appeal were invalid.

Instead of handing himself over for committal to prison, Juma vanished and remains a fugitive from justice. – New Ziana

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