THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) was on Wednesday let off the hook on charges of externalisation of funds after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) upheld its appeal challenging criminal prosecution by the State.
The full ConCourt bench headed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled that the delay to prosecute the labour body by the Prosecutor-General’s Office within a reasonable time constituted a violation of the institution’s Constitutional rights.
The labour body was facing charges of externalising foreign currency in excess of $800 000 in 2003.
It was the State’s contention that the labour body maintained a foreign currency account at Standard Chartered Bank, Africa Unity Square branch in Harare, where it allegedly requested the bank on numerous occasions to telegraphically transfer foreign currency into other foreign banks accounts.
At the material time, the State argued the country was in dire need of the foreign currency, but after paying out the hard currency, in return, the ZCTU was allegedly paid in Zimbabwean dollars purported to have been sourced from donors outside the country.
By so doing the prosecution argued the labour body prejudiced the State of the much-needed foreign currency.
However, when the trial was about to commence at the magistrates’ court in 2011, ZCTU lawyers made an application for referral to the Supreme Court then, citing infringement of their client’s constitutional right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.
The lawyers argued the State had been solely responsible for the delay in having the ZCTU tried within a reasonable time as at the time of appearing in court for trial, the case would be allocated a different prosecutor who would also give one reason or another not to proceed with the matter.
The State was represented by Innocent Muchini while ZCTU was represented by Obey Shava.