AN army jury has ruled that it has the jurisdiction to court martial Albert Matapo, who is at the centre of an alleged foiled military coup against P
resident Robert Mugabe, on charges that he deserted from the army.
Judge Advocate Captain Anderson assisted by Lieutenant Colonel Mkwananzi, Major Badza, Major Moyoweshumba, Major Mutembo and Major Kurambwi a fortnight ago said the court martial should proceed once the prosecution produces evidence that Matapo ran away from the army.
Matapo is facing treason charges with five other men accused of plotting a coup against President Robert Mugabe’s government and has been in police custody since May.
The ruling came barely a few days after Matapo’s lawyers, Warara & Associates, filed an application in the High Court to stop the army from proceeding with the court martial, arguing that their client did not complete military training.
The lawyers also wanted the army to provide documentation to substantiate their claim against Matapo.
A court martial is a military court that deals with disciplinary and misconduct cases by soldiers and is presided over by a Judge Advocate, who by law should be a member of the force.
Charles Warara of Warara & Associates told the Zimbabwe Independent last week that army prosecutor Major Gumbura was last Friday not sure whether he would provide the required documents when the case commences on January 28.
“The court made it clear that the case can only proceed if the army provides documents on Matapo’s alleged desertion, but Gumbura told the court he was not sure he was going to find the documents,” Warara said.
The documents needed include a roll call from the Zimbabwe School of Infantry, a report of the officer who first reported of Matapo’s absence from his base and copies of the last pay advice issued by the Zimbabwe National Army to the accused.
The court also wants an affidavit by an officer who made follow-ups on Matapo at his given address within 90 days after he deserted.
“What puzzles me is the fact that it took the army 16 years to track my client when he was employed by the government for a considerable time, said Warara. “Matapo worked for the government under the Ministry of Education as a teacher and later worked for the Public Service and all that time the army failed to charge him for desertion,” added Warara.
Matapo’s lawyer said since his client did not complete army training, the question before the courts would be the constitutionality of bringing a recruit before a court martial.
“My client did not finish basic military training and failed the cadet training course and we now want to know if he as a recruit can be trialled before a court martial on desertion charges, said Warara.