Zvikomborero Parafini, Court Reporter
A senior lawyer has called on the courts to decongest the court rooms especially the matters the State isn’t ready to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Addressing provincial magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa, in a fully packed remand court 6, senior counsel Tinofara Hove urged the court to copy steps taken by South Africa, Canada and the US, who are removing people from remand to prevent the spread of Corona virus.
Social distancing is one of the best recommended ways to defeat COVID-19 spread as it is spread through respiratory droplets which can land on other people’s mouths, noses and eyes, once the disease finds a new human host, it can start infecting cells and cause the disease.
Hove was representing former Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) spokesperson Elizabeth Banda and her alleged accomplices Vongai Mabvirakare and Raymond Mazodze who are facing fraud charges and have been on remand since October last year.
Prosecutor Sabastian Mutizirwa sought for a postponement to April 29 telling the court that investigations were complete and the Investigating Officer was only supposed to confirm whether there was a taskforce to monitor the distribution of the fuel in question.
He further sought the postponement on the basis that they were yet to acquire statements from the complainant ZIMRA and Ministry of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs.
Hove opposed the application arguing that the State had been on notice for three months yet they are claiming that investigations are complete.
“The State is claiming it is ready, yet it has raised four grounds for postponement going back on their statement that they are ready, the three must be removed from remand, not just these three but all the other litigants who are coming to court for matters that aren’t ready.
“They must be removed from remand especially because of the corona virus, it is high time that the courts in Zimbabwe follow trends set by UK, Canada and US who have removed people from remand to decongest the court because the virus thrives in congested areas,” said Hove.
Allegations are that that in July 2017 Mabvirakare, Banda and Mazodze devised a plan to evade payment of duty on importation of fuel from SA.
It is further alleged that in pursuant of the plan in August 2017, Mazodze representing Gloew which was purported to be registered in SA approached ZPCS offering a donation of 4 million litres of diesel.
The fuel was said to be obsolete in South Africa prompting ZPCS to engage the Ministry of Justice requesting a duty free certificate which was issued by ZIMRA for the acquisition of the 4million litres which was handed over to Mazodze so that he would facilitate importation of the fuel.
Upon receipt of the certificate from May 2017 to August 2018, Mazodze connived with Banda and drew a total of 1 130 500 litres of diesel at NOIC Msasa through Cmed.
The court heard that instead of delivering the fuel to ZPCS, the three delivered 77010 litres and went on to sell 1 053 490 litres to Afrifor Pvt Ltd without the knowledge of ZPCS, CMED or the Mininstry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
In a bid to cover up the offence, on December 5, 2017, Banda raised a fictious acquittal in respect of the fuel citing that indeed the fuel was delivered at ZPCS well knowing that they had sold it to private fuelling stations the court heard.