THE trial of former Energy minister Samuel Undenge on criminal abuse of office charges got off to a false start yesterday after the State’s key witness, Zimbabwe Power Company’s managing director Noah Gwariro, was said to be sick and incapacitated.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Undenge stands accused of awarding a public relations tender to a private company, Fruitful Communications, without following procedure during his tenure as Energy minister.
Fruitful Communications is co-owned by Zanu PF legislator Psychology Maziwisa and journalist Oscar Pambuka.
Harare regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya postponed the matter to May 15 following an application by State counsel Jonathan Murombedzi and scrapped off Undenge’s bail reporting conditions.
Undenge’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama had, however, opposed the application, arguing that the move was enough proof that the State was not prepared for trial.
Muchadehama claimed that delays in concluding the matter infringed on his client’s constitutional rights.
“Your Worship, the State has three witnesses. We can proceed with the trial with other witnesses, while at the same time waiting for Gwariro to recover. The State did not even have the courtesy to warn us that they are seeking the postponement due to the illness of Gwariro,” Muchdehama said.
“We spent long hours preparing for this trial and in the interests of justice, postponing this matter will be a serious violation of the accused person.”
Allegations are that sometime in 2016, Undenge fraudulently awarded Fruitful Communications a contract to do public relations work for Zesa Holdings without going to tender.
As a result, the State was allegedly prejudiced of $12 650.