ZDI defends AK-47 rifles 'smugglers'

AK-47 rifles

A COURT case in which senior Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) member Colonel Leonard Matambo stands accused of smuggling 31 AK-47 assault rifles into the country has taken a new twist after the ZDI wrote another letter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) absolving the accused on grounds he was authorised to write letters relating to the consignments.

The State, represented by Tafara Chirambira, had questioned the letter written by Matambo to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to release the guns.

But ZDI wrote another letter to the NPA saying Matambo’s role was to write such letters as the one submitted to Zimra.

However, upon submission of the letter before magistrate Stanford Mambanje, the State further questioned the authenticity of the letter authored by Air Commodore Mutizwa, whose whereabouts were said to be unknown by the police.

“The letter they purport saying there is no case, I have seen a copy of that letter (sic). This court needs that person to come and testify on the letter. We will cross-examine him if it is genuine or not. This is a fundamental issue, the crucial evidence being tendered from the bar need to be scrutinised,” Chirambira said.

“The court must summon this person to come and testify on the letter. And we will oppose tendering of that document.”

However, Matambo’s lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara said Mutizwa had no problem testifying in court in relation to the matter.

Bhatasara then asked for the matter to be adjourned to allow him to arrive and testify.

Upon arrival of Mutizwa, Bhatasara filed an application to have the proceedings of the matter held in camera saying the witness was a high-ranking Defence ministry official and his testimony could include facts that were regarded as official secrets in the army.

“Due to the nature of this matter, our witness is a senior member of ZDI who is the most senior and that there will be likelihood that during the proceedings, evidence might be solicited which may compromise the defence and security (sic). We ask for everyone to go out except legal counsel of the accused and State,” Bhatasara submitted.

The prosecutor, however, did not oppose the application or consent.

Magistrate Mambanje then asked the parties to postpone the case to today saying he needed to make a proper ruling on the matter since it was of public interest.

Bhatasara opposed the postponement saying the liberty of the accused person was at stake.

Mambanje postponed the matter to today.

Meanwhile, Matambo’s accomplice Gugulethu Mabhena, who was arrested in Beitbridge, had his bail denied by the court in Beitbridge.

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