Monday, 24 February 2020

EX MINISTER MUST FACE TRIAL : HIGH COURT


Former Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Jason Machaya has to wait for his trial on charges of criminal abuse of office to be completed before he can seek a review by a higher court or appeal, the High Court has ruled.

Machaya and his co-accused, Chaisanyerwa Chibururu, had approached the High Court to stop the trial after the presiding magistrate threw out their application for discharge at the close of the State’s case.

They felt the lower court erred at law and fact in finding that they have a case to answer, describing the decision placing them on their defence as “grossly irregular”. Justice Pisirayi Kwenda last week threw out the application for lacking merit.

He accepted the State’s submissions that there were no exceptional circumstances justifying the High Court to interfere with a trial in progress before a court with competent jurisdiction.

It was also noted in the judgment that the prosecution had made a case on how Machaya and Chibururu corruptly discharged their functions as public officials.

“There is no likelihood of any harm befalling the applicants (Machaya and Chibururu) which cannot be corrected by way of appeal or review after judgment by the trial court,” said Justice Kwenda. 

“I am not persuaded that there are compelling reasons to interfere with the trial which is still in progress. In the result . . . this application be and is hereby dismissed.”

The judgment noted that during the hearing of the application, the applicants’ lawyer, Mr Alec Muchadehama totally refrained from addressing the court on the existence of exceptional circumstances warranting interference by the High Court in criminal proceedings in progress before a court with competent jurisdiction.

Machaya and Chibururu are on trial at the Gweru Regional Magistrates’ Court. They deny the charges.

The two had applied for discharge arguing that the State had failed to make its case beyond reasonable doubt, arguing that it must lead cogent and impeccable evidence before they could be placed on their defence. The application was rejected.

Upset by the trial magistrate’s decision to put them on their defence, the two filed an application for review at the High Court. That application is pending.

The interlocutory application sought to stop the magistrates court trial pending the outcome of the review.

He said as the then Minister of State for Midlands he was entitled to 10 percent of stands developed on State land which is in line with the common law and the “annexation” of the stands in question was within the parameters of the law.

But the State, contends that Machaya intentionally allocated State land totalling 17 799 stands to land developers which was inconsistent with his duties.

Prosecutors further say Machaya did not have any lawful responsibility to allocate State land to the developers and entities as the allocation of the State land was the sole function and lawful responsibility of the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.

The court also heard that he received 1 791 commonage stands from the land developers and entities which constituted 18 percent of the total stands on the allocated State land.

It is further alleged that Machaya sold 1 185 of the stands, which was also inconsistent with his duties as the stands can only be allocated and distributed by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works.

He is alleged to have also allocated 192 commonage stands to Apostolic Christian Church of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) when he did not have the right or function to do this. Herald

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