Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
Eight years after smashing an axe into his wife, seven years after being convicted of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and sentenced to jail, and six years after losing his appeal, Gordon Tsuro, the head of the Marriages Department at the Registrar-General’s Office in Harare, was finally picked up from his office this week and sent to prison to serve his three-year sentence.
Until his six years of freedom in a legal limbo was exposed by The Herald, Tsuro had gone about his normal day-to-day life without a care in the world, going to work, socialising and the like.
But once the authorities read about his peculiar case in the newspaper, records were checked and the legal bureaucracy swung, or perhaps creaked, into action.
The critical missing link was apparently the letter from the High Court Registrar to the Harare Magistrates Court stating the appeal had failed. That letter finally turned up six years late.
But, better late than never, the process finally started at the end of October and armed with a warrant of arrest, the police picked up Tsuro on Wednesday, took him the following day to the Harare Magistrates’ Courts where he had been originally convicted, and the necessary papers were signed to send him to jail to serve his punishment.
If he had started his sentence the day it was given, and had behaved himself in jail to earn the one-third standard remission for good behaviour, Tsuro would have been out in 2014, five years ago, and now be well into his post-prison life.
Tsuro (48) was on June 26, 2012 convicted and jailed three years by then Harare Regional Magistrate Mr William Bhila, for seriously injuring his wife, Ms Rosemary Charlie, after striking her with an axe in a domestic dispute.
During trial, the court heard that the couple had a misunderstanding over residential stand documents as they were going to bed at around 8.40pm. Tsuro wanted the documents for Charlie’s house where building had started. But they were at her workplace and could not be obtained that night. So Tsuro grabbed an axe from under the bed and after forcing his wife to sit smashed her in the head and legs with the axe, before breaking her arm.
The couple’s landlord, Edward Gwekwete, rescued her and took her to hospital.
Tsuro was charged with attempted murder, but was finally convicted on a lower charge of very serious assault.
He immediately appealed to the High Court against both the conviction and sentence and was granted bail as is common in these cases until his appeal was heard.
But neither Tsuro nor his lawyers, Mupinu and Mugiya, pursued the appeal. So almost a year later on May 15 2013, deadlines being missed, the Registrar of the High Court formally dismissed the appeal. It is now that Tsuro entered legal limbo.
The Magistrates Court should have been told that the appeal had failed, and then Tsuro would have been arrested and formally committed to prison.
The waters were a little muddied by the lawyers, Mupindu and Mugiya, who applied for reinstatement of the appeal, but the Registrar advised them to file a court application if they wanted the automatic process reversed.
However, Mupindu & Mugiya had renounced agency in 2013 before a new law firm by the name Mugiya & Macharaga assumed agency, but there are no indications on the relevant court record, 580/12 that an application for reinstatement of appeal was ever pursued. So there never was an acquittal.
Contrary to the record, on September 13 2019, Harare lawyer Mr Norman Mugiya of Mugiya & Macharaga claimed his client was acquitted by the High Court, but could not state the date, judges or prosecutor who handled the case.
“It’s an old case and I think my client has since been acquitted. I am not sure of the judge and prosecutor who were involved. I will check the case number for you,” he said.
Officials at the High Court and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) head office said they were only aware of Appeal Case Number 580/12 that was dismissed for non-compliance with the rules.
The Herald is reliably informed that on October 24 this year, the Registrar of the High Court Mr Donald Ndirowei sent a copy of the High Court record to the Harare Magistrates’ Courts to enable the lower court to issue a warrant of arrest against Tsuro, which was eventually issued this week.
The Herald also established that the magistrate’s court record did not show any sign of acquittal or reinstatement of the appeal.
A perusal of the court record shows that State papers prepared at Zengeza Police Station, did not state that Tsuro was a senior Government official.
It should have been different, according to legal expert Advocate Wellington Pasipanodya.
He said the Registrar of the High Court should have timeously informed the magistrate’s court of the dismissal of the appeal to enable the issuance of a warrant of arrest.
“Once the Registrar of the High Court has dismissed the appeal, he
or she instructs the Clerk of the lower court to ensure the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the convict.
“After issuance of the warrant, the clerk of court in turn conveys the dismissal to the police. The police, armed with a warrant of arrest, will then bring the convict before a magistrate for committal to prison,” he said.
Mr Pasipanodya explained the process of a criminal appeal.
“When a convict files an appeal at the High Court, he or she must prosecute it through payment of record preparation fees, payment of notice of setdown fees as well as physically inspecting the record.
“In the event that one fails to comply with the rules of appeal, the Registrar of the High Court may deem the appeal to have lapsed,” he said.