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Chinamasa trial in doubt

Clemence Manyukwe

JUSTICE minister Patrick Chinamasa will still be abroad on the day he is due to stand trial next week on charges of trying to defeat the course of just

ice, throwing doubts over the prosecution of the case in court.

As reported in this paper on May 26, the Attorney-General’s Office set July 3 as Chinamasa’s trial date. The case is widely seen as part of the Zanu PF power struggle to succeed President Robert Mugabe. Ruling party insiders have claimed that Chinamasa was being punished by rivals from the faction led by former army commander retired General Solomon Mujuru for perceived loyalty to the camp headed by party heavyweight Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Chinamasa is also reportedly battling with Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele over control of the AG’s office. The two apparently clashed after a Bill was proposed last year to make Gula-Ndebele’s office independent of the ministry.

Chinamasa will be away on Monday when he is expected to appear in court. He left the country a fortnight ago for the inaugural session of the United Nations Human Rights Council held from June 19-22 in Geneva, Switzerland, and will not be back on Monday although his mission is over.

Chinamasa’s secretary said this week the minister would not be back in the country until Friday next week. On Wednesday, Paul Mangwana, the Anti- Corruption and Anti-Monopolies minister, who is also currently acting as both Information and Justice minister, said he would be in charge of the Justice ministry until July 4, a day after Chinamasa was supposed to appear in court.

He said Chinamasa was attending the UN meeting, but when told it was now over, he said: “He is just on government business.”

Mangwana then referred further questions to the Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, who in turn directed the Independent to the chief law officer, Florence Ziyambi.

Ziyambi refused to comment but Gula-Ndebele later said: “l have not been briefed on that case. If there is anything you go to court and you will find it. It will be there on the court roll.”

If he is not present, this would be the second time that Chinamasa would have failed to appear in court after an incident in July 2002 when he was outside Zimbabwe on the day he was supposed to answer contempt of court charges that had arisen from his excessive criticism of a six month jail-term imposed on three Americans accused of illegal possession of arms.

At the time former High Court judge Fergus Blackie imposed a three month jail term and a $50 000 fine. Blackie said: “It is clear that Chinamasa has no intention of appearing before this court.”

Blackie rejected the government’s assertion that the sentence was his “hostile parting shot against the executive”.

In the current case, Chinamasa and five others including the head of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in Manicaland, Innocent Chibaya, face allegations of attempting to influence state witnesses to drop charges against State Security minister Didymus Mutasa’s supporters who were charged with political violence.

The supporters, who included Albert Nyakuedzwa, have since been jailed for up to three years for assaulting war veteran James Kaunye who wanted to challenge Mutasa in Zanu PF’s Makoni North primary elections ahead of the 2005 parliamentary poll.

Previously Chinamasa said he would comment at the appropriate time while Mutasa has said the case “would not go anywhere”. A docket for Mutasa has since been prepared on allegations he was an accomplice in the case.

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