By Nyore Madzianike-
FORMER Cabinet Minister Prisca Mupfumira was on Wednesday issued with another warrant of arrest after she failed to avail herself for trial in a matter in which she is jointly charged with ex-National Social Security Authority (NSSA) director contributions and collections, Barnabas Matongera, for criminal abuse of office.
Mupfumira and Matongera are alleged to have fast-tracked a contract to build low-income houses in Gweru without approval by the NSSA board.
The duo denied the charges when their trial opened at the Harare Magistrates’ Court.
Yesterday, Mupfumira failed to avail herself for trial amid reports she travelled to South Africa on Parliament business.
Regional magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje issued the warrant of arrest against Mupfumira after the State led by Mr Loveit Masuku applied for its issuance.
In his application, Mr Masuku said Mupfumira travelled without a leave of court.
“She was warned on the 5th of May to appear in court. I am advised that accused did not seek leave not to attend court. She is in wilful default and the State applies for warrant of arrest for accused,” he said.
In his response, Mupfumira’s lawyer Mr Admire Rubaya opposed to the State’s application.
He said Mupfumira appeared before court on May 13 and applied for temporary release of passport and alteration of bail conditions where she sought leave to travel to South Africa from May 13 to June 9.
Mr Rubaya said the application was unreservedly consented to by State.
“On that day, the defence asked that the trial dates be moved as they fell within the time she will be in South Africa. The State said it would not move the dates.
“The court then granted leave to travel to South Africa and released the passport. For the State to somersault and say she wilfully absented herself is not correct,” he said.
In his ruling, Mr Mambanje said Mupfumira was not in wilful default as she, through her lawyer, suggested that the trial date be moved on the day she applied for the release of her passport.
Mr Mambanje said the State promised to deal with the issue of dates on the day she was wanted for trial but failed to make their intentions clear.
“Had the court known that it wanted to apply for a warrant of arrest, the court would have not allowed that to happen,” he said.
Mr Mambanje noted that Mr Masuku was acting on misinformation which resulted in the State creating a procedural crisis.
He said the warrant of arrest he issued against Mupfumira will be cancelled without a default enquiry on May 24 when she is expected to return to court for continuation of trial.
Regional magistrate Mrs Esthere Chivasa issued Mupfumira with another warrant of arrest after she failed to appear in court for trial in a matter in which she is jointly charged with former Public Service Commission permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka.