HARARE – Constantino Chiwenga sneaked into court through the magistrates’ door on Thursday as he faced his estranged wife for the first time in more than two years.
Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube granted an application allowing the vice president to testify in private as defence lawyers fumed at what they described as “class justice.”
Chiwenga was a star witness in the fraud and misrepresentation trial of the mother of his three children, Marry Mubaiwa, who is accused of fraudulently trying to upgrade their marriage from an unregistered customary union to a civil law marriage in July 2019.
Mubaiwa’s lawyers have accused Chiwenga, the complainant in the matter, of using the courts to settle personal scores with the 40-year-old former model who has been denied access to her children for more than two years, and faces other charges including money laundering and an alleged plot to kill Chiwenga in a South African hospital.
The 65-year-old former army general, accompanied by half-a-dozen men in suits, used a car park at the back of the Harare Magistrates Court before entering the building using an entrance reserved for magistrates. He wore a blue suit and had his left hand tucked in his trouser pocket.
Reporters were barred from following the proceedings in court, which were also closed to the public.
Asked how Chiwenga reacted at the sight of his ailing wife, defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said: “Where he was, I couldn’t see him. With the masks and glasses in Court 14 I couldn’t see him, I could just hear (his voice).”
Mtetwa said they were still mystified over why he was granted a private hearing when “there was nothing privately said which is not in the public domain already.”
“If it’s about private life, Marry is also a person who needs privacy. Why has the court allowed the trial to go on with her there in public? There can be no question that this is class justice. Privacy only relates to a certain class of people because if this is about privacy, every case like this then will be private, and each one of us would be entitled to that privacy even if we are nobodies,” Mtetwa fumed.
Magistrate Ncube postponed the trial to January 17 when the prosecution said it would lead evidence from two more witnesses.
“We don’t know who those witnesses are, it’s their usual hide and seek,” Mtetwa told journalists outside court.
Mubaiwa denies fraud and misrepresentation over claims that she approached a judge and lied that Chiwenga wanted a marriage officer to solemnise their marriage. The marriage officer, former acting chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi, has testified that the marriage did not go through because he could not find the couple at their Borrowdale residence on the appointed date.