The State yesterday said the application by former Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira to have Chief Magistrate Mr Munamato Mutevedzi recuse himself from her trial should be dismissed.
Prosecutors, Messrs Jonathan Chingwinyiso and Tafara Chirambira, said Mr Mutevedzi had shown no bias, had not been given information outside the present trial, and two witnesses had already testified.
Mupfumira is jointly charged with former permanent secretary in the ministry Ngoni Masoka on charges of criminal abuse of office and concealing a transaction from a principal.
The present application is one of a string of applications seeking the dropping of the charges or adjournment of the matter until an appeal is heard.
Through her lawyer, Advocate Sylvester Hashiti, Mupfumira argued that Mr Mutevedzi had previously dismissed her other applications and so “has already formulated an opinion on the matter”.
She argued that Mr Mutevedzi had already established that she committed the offences which warranted her further detention before trial commencement.
“He, therefore, has bias of the subject matter and has already made his mind on the merits such that he cannot be a fair and impartial arbiter,” she said.
Mupfumira made the application after Mr Mutevedzi dismissed another application to have the trial deferred pending a Supreme Court determination on her appeal against a High Court decision to dismiss a review of yet another application for exception to the charges, that is to have the charges dropped.
Adv Hashiti had argued that the outcome of the Supreme Court decision will have a bearing on the ongoing trial since it had already been set down for hearing.
Mr Mutevedzi dismissed the application, saying there was no order from the upper courts that compelled him to stay proceedings pending determination of the second appeal.
In response, Mr Chingwinyiso and Mr Chirambira, said the application lacked merit and should be dismissed as no bias had been shown by Mr Mutevedzi.
They argued that there was no basis to believe that Mr Mutevedzi was conflicted, as he did not pronounce on guilty or innocence when he heard and dismissed her previous applications.
Mr Chirambira said, “Your Worship, the case laws relied on by the accused person are from South Africa and not binding in Zimbabwe. Also, these cases speak on a magistrate who has heard bail application and extensive information on an accused’s previous convictions. According to the State, these cases cannot be applied to the matter before this court.
“Also, trial has already started with two witnesses having already testified, so the recusal has been overtaken by events. The application is not merited, therefore, trial should proceed.”
The State is set to call a third witness in the matter.
After hearing submissions from both parties, Mr Mutevedzi deferred the matter to Monday next week for ruling.
The case against Mupfumira and Masoka involves a US$90 000 they allegedly got from National Social Security Authority which they used to purchase a Toyota Land Cruiser sports utility vehicle instead of a Mercedes Benz.
They allegedly ordered the purchase of air tickets worth US$10 215 to attend a wedding in South Africa, before paying R113 559 for accommodation, without approval.