ZIMBABWEAN authorities bungled the collection of evidence to extradite business magnate Mutumwa Mawere who was this week removed from remand by a South African court.
The Zimbabwe Independent yest-erday heard that Zimbabwe requested the arrest of Mawere on May 22 on charges of externalising foreign currency before gathering sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. A magistrate said on Wednesday he would not countenance procedural shortcuts.
It has been established that the Zimbabwean government was in May granted authority by the South African Justice ministry to carry out investigations in South Africa. The investigators were supposed to obtain warrants to enable them to search for evidence in South Africa prior to arresting Mawere. A judicial officer, probably a magistrate, should have been appointed to facilitate the investigations. But this exercise was not carried out prior to the arrest of Mawere on May 25.
The evidence is key to proving allegations that Mawere was indeed involved in externalising foreign currency. Such information was crucial to convince the South African court to agree to extradite Mawere.
The magistrate’s court sitting in Randburg on Wednesday refused to grant Zimbabwe more time to produce evidence in the case and subsequently removed Mawere from bail. This was a major setback for the Zimbabwe team of police officers and officials from the Reserve Bank who travelled to South Africa to attend the court session.
In a hard-hitting ruling on Wed-nesday magistrate Tefo Myambo in dismissing the request for a postponement said his court would not be party to an action that militated against the South African constitution.
“South Africa has a constitution which dictates what has to happen in the interest of justice,” said Myambo in his ruling.
“By their own admission the state is not in a position to proceed and an undertaking (by Zimbabwe) that relevant documents would be ready was not complied with,” he said.
“It is not in the interest of justice to grant the state another postponement. The court is of the view that it will bring the administration of justice into ill-repute if the court bends over backwards to grant another postponement,” Myambo said.
“The court will not be party to this…It will not pump life into the state case when they haven’t come to the party,” he said.
Sources said the government could still get a second bite of the cherry if it followed the correct procedures in gathering evidence against Mawere.
At Mawere’s remand hearing on May 27, the Zimbabwe government made an undertaking that it would be ready this week to furnish the court with evidence to prove that Mawere had a case to answer.
At the magistrate’s court in Randburg on Tuesday the state advocate representing the Zimbabwe government, Paul Schutte, asked for a postponement of the extradition hearing saying Zimbabwe needed to “authenticate” its documentation and gather more evidence. Schutte requested an additional 30 days to produce the requisite information to court.
On Wednesday Mawere’s lawyers immediately opposed the attempt to postpone the matter saying it was not only unconstitutional but also prejudicial to Mawere, as banks had started to call in facilities.
The lawyers said it was unconstitutional to arrest somebody for the sake of gathering evidence.