‘Go ahead and convict her’ – Marry Mubaiwa’s lawyer angrily dares magistrate

HARARE – Marry Mubaiwa’s trial for secretly planning to upgrade her marriage to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga exploded in angry scenes on Friday after a court ruled that she has a case to answer, dismissing her application for discharge at the close of the prosecution case.

Her livid lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa stunned the court when she invited magistrate Lazini Ncube to go on and convict the former model, insisting the defence would make no further submissions.

“The accused will not answer any questions. She is choosing not to do so in terms of section 70 of the constitution. The defence case is closed. The accused will say nothing. Be it answering questions by the court or by the state or anyone. That is the choice she has made,” Mtetwa said.

“We have nothing further to say to this court. It is time for the state to tell us why they say they have proved their case beyond reasonable doubt. Because there nothing further to be said by the accused.”

Prosecutor Tafara Chirambira said that does not take away the right of the state to put questions to Mubaiwa.

Another prosecutor Michael Reza said the state would not take away her right to remain silent but will still ask questions, and it would be up to her to remain silent or respond.

Ncube postponed the matter to February 10 to consider if Mubaiwa should be forced to take witness stand in her defence.

Prosecutors only need to prove a prima facie case to force an accused person to be put to their defence. The threshold for conviction, however, is proof beyond reasonable doubt – and Mtetwa is daring the magistrate to convict her on the basis of what he has heard from the prosecution so far, if – as they believe – he is of the view that she is guilty.

Outside court, Mtetwa was still seething as she faced reporters. The defence privately believes the trial is a farce and a decision has already been made to convict Mubaiwa. They feel they will get a fairer hearing on appeal with the upper courts.

“The magistrate has found that Marry has a case to answer. No surprises there,” she said. “We have opted to remain silent. The constitution says we have the right to remain silent.

“The state wants to force her to answer questions which is in contradiction of the constitutional provision which is very clear, you have the right to remain silent and not to be forced to testify in the hope that you may incriminate yourself because the state case is weak.

“It means they have enough evidence to convict her. If he (Ncube) can now convert what he called a prima facie case into proof beyond reasonable doubt, let him go ahead and convict her.”

Mubaiwa’s defence team is going for a high stakes gamble – the only play that they think they have against a court they are convinced is doing Chiwenga’s bidding. He was controversially allowed to testify in camera, as the defence protested.

The defence says they have nothing further to add to their application for Mubaiwa to be discharged at the close of the state case, and hope their arguments will convince a different court.

Mubaiwa denies allegations of misrepresentation and fraud. She is accused of initiating processes to upgrade her customary union to Chiwenga to a civil marriage in 2019. The marriage was never solemnised after a magistrate who was sent to their home found the gate locked and failed to gain entry.

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