Mliswa back in the dock

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The trial of commercial farmer and Saltlakes Holdings chief executive Temba Mliswa on stocktheft and contempt of court charges is set to resume today at the Harare regional court.

The trial was adjourned in November last year after regional magistrate Estere Chivasa ruled against the State and barred a Harare lawyer, Gerald Mlotshwa, from testifying against Mliswa, his former client.

It then became apparent the State was banking on Mlotshwa as its star witness and the ruling by the magistrate threw the State’s case off track, prompting the State to seek a postponement.

Immediately after the court’s ruling, prosecutor Obi Mabahwana indicated the State’s intention to appeal against the magistrate’s ruling, but as of yesterday, Mliswa’s lawyer, Charles Chinyama, said he had not yet received the notice of appeal.

“I have not received anything from the State since Mabahwana indicated he would appeal against the ruling by the magistrate. I think he has decided to continue with other witnesses tomorrow (today),” said Chinyama.

Chinyama successfully argued Mlotshwa was not suitable to be a State witness since he was once Mliswa’s lawyer when the offence before the court was allegedly committed.

The magistrate concurred with the defence and said: “Indeed the State effectively bulldozed Mlotshwa’s evidence and smuggled his affidavit which is not proper before this court.

Mlotshwa was not being honest in his affidavit where he used improper language by saying ‘Mliswa stole’when he knew as a lawyer that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Chinyama also argued it was incompetent for the State to appeal against a ruling which was not a final but an interlocutory order.

Mliswa is being accused of stealing 56 head of cattle from Rydings Primary School in Karoi. The businessman and former fitness trainer also stands accused of contempt of court stemming from the stocktheft charge after he defied a court order not to move the cattle from the school until finalisation of the matter.