By Prosper Dembedza
Harare Regional Magistrate Mrs Sandra Mupindu has, for the second time, acquitted three Tobacco Sales Limited (TSL) bosses accused of selling a farm for US$600 000 after it had been gazetted by Government for acquisition under the land reform programme.
TSL chief executive officer Washington Matsaire, former chief executive officer Richard Musvaire, and finance director Peter Mujaya, all represented by Mr Addington Chinake, were acquitted in 2014, after the magistrate found that the State had not made a case against them, but the acquittal was overruled by High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe, following an appeal by prosecutor Mr Micheal Reza.
Justice Hungwe overruled magistrate Mupindu after finding that the State had failed to make a case against the three and so there was no need to hear their defence. The judge found that there was a case that required the three to be put to their defence.
In her second judgment after hearing the defence, Mrs Mupindu said no evidence was adduced by the State to show that the land had been acquired by the Government, and no evidence that the three made any misrepresentation to Zazu Pvt Ltd, the buyer.
“The State relied on the Government Gazette, which is a preliminary notice to compulsorily acquire the land and is not enough proof,” she said.
No evidence was shown by the State that the three were aware of the preliminary notice in the Government Gazette.
Mrs Mupindu said the State failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the charges against the three. She further stated that the three had no intention whatsoever to defraud the buyer.
“The State failed to smuggle new evidence into the record as it intended to do,” said Mrs Mupindu.
She said the farming operations were covered by the BIPPA Agreement between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Government of Netherlands.
“The complainant is in possession of the shares and the business and continues to operate to his benefit. The state has failed to prove a prima facie case against the three accused persons and it has also failed to prove the case of fraud beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the accused persons are found not guilty and acquitted,” she said.