The Prosecutor-General’s Office has approached the High Court seeking the recusal of Harare provincial magistrate Douglas Vakayi Chikwekwe from presiding over the matter involving incarcerated cleric Robert Martin Gumbura’s eight wives, arguing he was showing bias towards the defence case.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Gumbura’s wives are being tried on allegations of distributing pornographic material.
Yesterday, the suspects appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court and their trial, which was halted early last year, was again deferred to April 29 this year as the State seeks a review of Chikwekwe’s rulings by the High Court.
“It is against the above background of procedural irregularities that the applicant questions the partiality of the court a quo, 9th respondent (Chikwekwe). It is apparent from the record of proceedings that the learned trial magistrate is biased towards the defence case, thereby incapacitating the State from a free rein to lead its evidence,” the State said in its application.
Gumbura’s wives, who are being represented by Rekayi Maphosa together with Chikwekwe, have since filed their opposing papers with the High Court and the matter is yet to be heard.
In the application, the State is seeking an order for the trial to start afresh before a different magistrate and a different prosecutor.
The draft order read: “The proceedings in case number CRB 10989-96/13 are and hereby declared de novo and the trial of the first to the eighth accused is and hereby to commence afresh before a different court (magistrate) and a different prosecutor at Harare Magistrates’ Court.”
In the present matter, prosecutor Michael Reza stopped the trial after Chikwekwe had ruled in favour of the defence that the police officer, who purported to be the investigating officer, could not tender the accused’s warned-and-cautioned statements.
This led to a trial within a trial in which the magistrate ruled against the State, prompting the application for review at the High Court.
The imprisoned cleric’s wives – Choice Neganje, Amadeus Mutakwa, Rutendo Sekayi Mandiya, Pamela Kandawire, Runyararo Musvosvi, Veronica Mbanga, Tendai Kwatara and Moreblessing Takawira – have been on remand since November 2013.
They are alleged to have kept unsecured nude pictures of themselves at their Marlborough home.
They are all denying the charge.