Saturday, August 3, 2019

State calls investigating officer on Mupfumira case

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TOURISM and Hospitality minister Priscah Mupfumira, who is facing criminal abuse of office charges after she allegedly swindled the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) of over US$95 million, is set to spend another weekend behind bars after High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere postponed the bail hearing to Monday to enable the State to call the investigating officer.

The decision by the judge came after her earlier judgment allowing Mupfumira's team of lawyers, led by Advocate Lewis Uriri, to make a bail application, saying acting chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi misdirected himself when he initially refused to entertain the minister's bail application.

The Cabinet minister, who is also Senator for Mashonaland West province, was remanded in custody after Prosecutor-General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi issued a special certificate requesting Mutevedzi to detain her for 21 days pending investigations into the NSSA saga.

But Uriri, who was being instructed by Charles Chinyama, Ray Tsvakwi and Zivanai Makwanya, made a submission before the court, arguing that the acting chief magistrate had erred when he dismissed their intention to make a bail application before him.

Prior to the postponement of the matter, State representative Sharon Fero had made submissions raising preliminary points, saying the matter was not properly before the court and also that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the bail application.

However, Justice Ndewere dismissed the State's preliminary points and allowed Uriri to make Mupfumira's bail application.

It was after Uriri's submissions that Fero made an application for the postponement of the matter, saying the State had not been accorded the chance to ventilate submissions on why it is opposed to Mupfumira's bail.

Fero further said the State was still receiving information from the ongoing investigations and, as such, it was very important for the investigating officer to come and assist the court in outlining the compelling reasons why the State was opposed to bail.

Justice Ndewere then postponed the case to Monday, saying she would not want to repeat the same mistake that was made by the acting chief magistrate.

"We are dealing with an unusual case, where there is an appeal before this court now being treated like a fresh bail application. We have a situation where a judicial officer (acting chief magistrate) refused to entertain the issue of bail, which I have already said was misdirection," the judge said.

"The issue of bail was not well ventilated. So it is fair that I allow the State to call the investigating officer. This will give the defence an opportunity to cross-examine him because this court does not want to repeat the same mistake, where we end up having a one-sided case like what happened in the lower court, where only the issue of the certificate was entertained."