PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s lawyer in the just-concluded presidential election challenge, Advocate Lewis Uriri, yesterday challenged the Zanu PF leader’s authority to appoint a special anti-corruption investigative unit, saying it was illegal for him to just wake up and appoint a government crack unit without an Act of Parliament, arguing such action was clear abuse of his duty.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Uriri recently successfully represented Mnangagwa at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) against a petition filed by MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, who was seeking to overturn the Zanu PF leader’s victory in the July 30 election.
Addressing Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube, where he was representing suspended University of Zimbabwe (UZ) vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura in a criminal abuse of office charge, Uriri also said the prosecutors seconded by the Office of the President to handle the matter were before the court illegally.
The National Prosecution Authority had seconded Tapiwa Godzi and Mikel Chakandida, who are in private practice and were recently incorporated into the anti-corruption special unit housed in the Office of the President.
While challenging their presence in court, Uriri said it was a clear violation of the Constitution to have the prosecutors who directly report to the President, saying this compromises the administration of justice.
“These prosecutors take instruction from the State President. They do not report to Prosecutor-General. The President woke up one morning and said I am putting a commission or a special unit, that is fundamentally a breach of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Uriri said.
“It is an abuse of power for other purposes not known to us. If there is going to be a conferment of prosecutors who are not from the Prosecution Authority, such power must be by Act of Parliament.”
“These learned colleagues are subject to control by the Office of the President. The role of public prosecutor lies at the centre of the constitutional right to a fair trial. If they are employed by the Office of the President, are they going to be fair? Obviously they are going to please their appointing authority, who is the President.”
Uriri asked the court for referral of the matter to the ConCourt to determine whether the granting of certificates to private lawyers by the National Prosecuting Authority did not violate the constitutional rights of the accused person’s right to equal protection under the law.
“Prosecutorial independence lies at the heart to constitutional right to a fair trial. The public prosecutor is intended by the Constitution to be independent, impartial and not subject to the direct or control of someone,” he said.
Uriri further told the court that acting Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi had no authority to issue prosecuting certificates, as it amounted to wilful violation of the Constitution.
But Godzi said Uriri should have challenged the special prosecutor’s presence during the remand period.
“Uriri should have challenged our presence during the remand time. We even issued him with all court documents to prepare his client’s defence. All witnesses have been given their papers. Your worship, it is just a ploy to delay the proceedings,” Godzi told the court.
Ncube postponed the matter to today for ruling.
Allegations are that sometime in 2011, Nyagura singlehandedly accepted and approved Ntombizodwa Grace Marufu’s (Grace’s maiden name) application to study for a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Sociology without the knowledge and recommendations of the departmental board and Faculty of Higher Degrees Committee in violation of UZ quality assurance, guidelines and benchmark.
Nyagura allegedly abused his position after showing favour to Grace, who did not meet the minimum requirements to study for the degree. It is alleged Nyagura’s action had the capacity to discredit Zimbabwe’s education system, thereby affecting its international rankings.