LAWYERS representing former Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya, who is facing corruption charges related to the Asiagate football match-fixing scandal, yesterday stunned the court when they boycotted their clients’ trial.
Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi, Senior Reporter
The lawyers had earlier sought to have the matter adjourned, but magistrate Esthere Chivasa rejected their application and ordered the trial proceeds.
The defence team, comprising Jonathan Samukange, Dumisani Mthombeni and Tafadzwa Hungwe, had applied to have the matter postponed to December 13 to allow the High Court to rule on their application for exemption on the fraud charge.
Chivasa, however, ruled that the trial could still open regardless of the High Court application, after which the defence sought to have the matter adjourned to today, but the court turned down the request. Rushwaya’s lawyers failed to turn up at 2:15pm for the trial as ordered by the magistrate, forcing the court to adjourn to today in the interests of justice, with the consent of prosecutors Oliver Marwa and Sidom Chinzete.
The State agreed that it would be unfair for Rushwaya to be tried in the absence of her lawyers.
“It is important for the accused to understand that the court
has a duty to deliver justice. Now we are dealing with a lone actor and it would be wrong to continue,” Chivasa said, adding that Rushwaya should seek legal representation before the matter resumed today.
Prosecutor Marwa concurred: “The conduct of the defence counsel is unethical. You do not renounce agency in that way . . . Out of compassion and fair understanding, it is only proper that she (Rushwaya) be allowed to appear tomorrow (today).”
Earlier, Rushwaya had been ordered to pay a $20 fine for failing to appear in court on time, while her lawyers worked on securing an order from the High Court to stop the proceedings in the magistrates’ court.
Allegations against Rushwaya are that she connived with former Zifa programmes officer Jonathan Musavengana and Asian betting syndicate leader Raja Perumal and unlawfully authorised the national soccer team and Monomotapa Football Club to go on international sporting tours.
It is alleged Perumal funded the trips to Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Oman, Jordan, Bulgaria, China, Thailand and Yemen.
In the other charges, it is alleged that between 2007 and 2009, Rushwaya allegedly engaged match officials, players, technical staff and media personnnel in respect of all the 15 international games played and received $1 million to throw away matches.