Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
High Court judge Justice Herbert Chitapi has taken a swipe at the National Prosecuting Authority for dereliction of duty, which has resulted in the collapse of murder and other serious criminal matters.
The courts end up freeing murder suspects because the NPA tended to sit on the matters until the expiry of the mandatory six months’ indictment period.
Procedurally, when the NPA is ready for trial, it has the responsibility to push for an indictment of murder suspects.
However, the prosecution in some of the cases, forgets about the indictment and relaxes until the lapse of the six months.
At times, the same office seeks postponements to the prejudice of the suspects.
In a classic case of negligence that invited Justice Chitapi’s wrath, the NPA woke up from slumber nine months after the lapse of the six months indictment in a serious double murder where a Marondera man axed his wife and son to death.
Charles Caleb Bonyongwe stands accused of murdering his wife and son in 2014.
Instead of re-indicting Bonyongwe, the NPA sought a postponement in a matter where indictment had expired.
Justice Chitapi blasted the NPA for negligence.
“The conduct of the prosecution cannot escape comment,” he said. “It shows a complete dereliction of duty. To allow an indictment in a serious case like this one, a double murder, to lapse is a sad occurrence. The NPA should not approach the discharge of its mandate in a perfunctory.”
The judge said the conduct of the State wasted the court’s time and resources.
“The conduct of the prosecution unfortunately did not only result in prejudice to the accused person, as he has not been tried within the lifespan of the indictment, but also to the administration of justice as well, since the court’s time has been wasted, including resources that are not easy to come by in these difficult economic times,” the judge said.
Justice Chitapi urged the NPA to put its house in order.
“It is hoped that the NPA pulls its socks up so that incidents of dereliction of duty as manifest in this case are not repeated,” he said.
The judge directed the Registrar of the High Court to serve the judgment on the Prosecutor-General to curb future cases of negligence.
“The court directs the Registrar to ensure that a copy of this judgement is delivered on the Prosecutor-General’s Office so that appropriate remedial measures are taken to ensure that indictments are not left to lapse and for matters lodged in the High Court to be properly monitored so that they are not forgotten and in any event, are disposed of with reasonable promptitude,” ruled Justice Chitapi.
In 2014, the State treated the same case in a suspicious manner during bail proceedings before another judge, Justice Joseph Musakwa.
The State consented to the release of the suspect on bail, but Justice Musakwa turned it down as he felt the consent was not proper.
The court heard that Bonyongwe, his wife Choice Mashonganyika, and their baby went to Avoncliff Farm to work in a tobacco field in January this year.
It is alleged that the two were later seen leaving the farm with Mashonganyika carrying their baby on her back, while Bonyongwe was holding an axe.
According to State papers, this was the last time Bonyongwe was seen together with his family.
Prosecutors claim that Bonyongwe struck his wife and child with an axe on their heads three times and twice respectively.
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