Senior Court Reporter
HARARE regional magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna will early next month rule on whether former Cabinet minister Prisca Mupfumira and ex-NSSA manager Barnabas Matongera need to be put to their defence to explain themselves on criminal abuse of office charges or should simply be acquitted.
Mupfumira and Matongera were alleged to have fast-tracked the signing of an agreement between the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and Drawcard Enterprises for the construction of low-income houses in Gweru.
Mr Nduna said he will deliver his judgment on March 4, after Mupfumira and Matongera applied for discharge at the close of the State’s case.
The State is now expected to respond to the application.
A court can discharge an accused at the end of the prosecution case if the magistrate or judge finds that the State has not shown a crime was committed or that the accused could have committed the crime.
But if the court finds that the State has shown there was a crime committed and that the accused could have committed it, then the accused has to present a defence to knock down the State case.
Yesterday, Mr Nduna refused to discharge Matongera even though the State had conceded that it had failed to prove a case against him, saying the court was not bound by the concession to acquit him.
So, Matongera should wait until March 4 when he delivers his judgment.
Matongera, through his lawyer Mr Richard Masinire, did not make further submissions after Mr Nduna’s decision.
Mupfumira, through her lawyer Admire Rubaya, made further submissions saying by conceding that Matongera had no case to answer, the State was now implying Mupfumira allegedly committed the offence alone.
The defence argued that it was unfathomable to allege that Mupfumira committed the alleged offence on her own since she did not sign the agreement in question nor did she witness its signing.
In addition, it was argued, Matongera was not implicating Mupfumira as the person who made him sign the agreement.
Neither of them was the accounting officer of NSSA at the relevant point in time.
Mupfumira, in her submissions, said Liz Chitiga, who was the accounting officer at NSSA, was the one supposed to have been taken to court to explain how the agreement was entered into in the alleged manner and that the State should have obtained evidence from her before seeking to place Mupfumira on her defence.
“In the absence of any incriminating evidence from these witnesses, the State cannot say it has a prima facie case,” she said.
Mupfumira told the court that the State had failed to explain the contradictions of State witnesses in its response.
The State led by Mr Whisper Mabhaudhi and Mr Loveit Masuku is expected to file submissions on Wednesday next week before Mr Nduna makes the judgment on March 4.