SUPPORTERSâ€™ leader Eddie Nyatanga has been roped into the controversy surrounding the trial of Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya on theft charges.
Better known as Mboma in football circles, Nyatangaâ€™s name surfaced when Harare senior magistrate Lazarus Murendo gave IndependentSport his version of the controversy surrounding Rushwayaâ€™s case.
Nyatanga is suspected to have been the source of rumours that prosecutors and other court officials involved in Rushwayaâ€™s case had been bribed to influence the outcome of the trial.
Murendo said he recused himself from the Rushwaya case after it emerged the prosecution office was investigating the circumstances surrounding her trial which has since been deemed â€œunproceduralâ€.
IndependentSport had on February 28 suggested that Murendo could have recused himself from the case after rumours that he had been allegedly bought medication by Rushwaya surfaced.
â€œI only heard about the ARV rumour after I recused myself from the case,â€ Murendo said. â€œAll I heard was that a guy called Mboma was spreading that rumour and distributing things while I was in court, but I didnâ€™t see him and I donâ€™t know if it was true.â€
A source said Nyatanga could have been questioned last month by the policeâ€™s Serious Fraud Department in connection with the rumoured bribery. Nyatanga could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A probe is already underway at the Attorney-Generalâ€™s Office to establish the circumstances that led to Rushwayaâ€™s trial being suspiciously brought forward.
Prosecutor Alois Gakata, the dominus in the Rushwaya theft case, and his boss Fungai Nyahunzvi are said to have been quizzed why the case had been taken for trial before it was ready for prosecution.
Police suspect that there could have been underhand dealings that resulted in Rushwayaâ€™s trial on theft charges being brought forward from February to December.
But sources suspect the prosecutors had been put under political pressure to expedite Rushwayaâ€™s trial. She is believed to have close links with Vice-President Joseph Msika.
Rushwaya is already facing a fresh charge of attempting to defeat the course of justice.
The state alleges that Rushwaya sought the services of the director of Legea Zimbabwe to forge an invoice purporting she had paid US$2 300 to the sporting kit supplier in October in a bid to cover up her previous case of theft from Zifa coffers.
The court heard that in Rushwayaâ€™s alleged theft case, there was no mention of Legea in her defence.
Murendo said he did not want to handle the Rushwaya issue any further after he learnt of the problems surrounding the case.
â€œI recused myself on professional grounds. I heard that prosecutors took Rushwayaâ€™s case to court when it should not have been heard then,â€ Murendo said.
â€œMy reasons for recusal are in the file. I told (provincial magistrate Mishrod) Guvamombe and the prosecutor that I was not going to read my reasons in court because I knew an investigation was underway at the prosecutorsâ€™ office.â€
He added: â€œApart from court settings, Iâ€™ve never had interaction with Rushwaya.
â€œI also wondered what medication that I could not afford. I donâ€™t know when I last saw a doctor, maybe 10 years ago. Iâ€™ve never absented myself from work on medical grounds.
Murendo said he had not gone on strike during the industrial action that rocked the judicial services in December because he was a senior magistrate.
â€œDuring the strike by magistrates, I was actually overworking myself so I donâ€™t know if a sick man could do that,â€ he said.
â€œIf I was sick, I can afford my own medication. Iâ€™m not a man who is in need. But I have families that subsist on me.â€
By Darlington Majonga