A HARARE court yesterday declared State prosecutor Michael Reza unfit to preside over MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Tendai Biti’s trial saying he overstepped his mandate as an impartial judicial officer.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
On Monday this week, Reza and Biti almost came to blows in court after the public prosecutor accused the opposition leader of playing a role in the fatal shooting of six civilians by the army cracking down on post-election violence on August 1.
This prompted Biti’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa to seek removal of Reza from the case saying he had already convicted her client before the ongoing commission of inquiry finished its investigations.
Magistrate Gloria Takundwa ruled that Reza exhibited clear bias when he responded to Biti’s application saying a prosecutor must be neutral at all times.
“When Reza responded to the accused’s application he said that he had responded to the affidavit in a political climate since accused had also brought out a political tone.
“Under no circumstances should a prosecutor at any stage assume a political tone or respond in a political tone. The prosecutor must be at every stage remain non-partisan as required in terms of section 261(2) (a) of the Constitution,” Takundwa ruled.
Magistrate Takundwa said in responding to the application in a political tone or climate, Reza was showing that his behaviour had fallen far short of the customary standards of fairness as demanded from him.
“There is a real possibility of bias on the part of the prosecutor if he continues prosecuting the accused. If he maintains the position as lead prosecutor he may well not act towards the accused with the fairness and impartiality that the administration of criminal justice demands,” she said.
After the removal of Reza from leading the proceedings Tafadzwanashe Mupariwa took over and asked for the postponement of the case to December 10 for trial.
Biti’s other lawyer Alec Muchadehama successfully applied for the temporary release of Biti’s passport saying as the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, he is scheduled to travel to Kampala, Uganda on parliamentary business which will take place from November 19 to 23.
But Mupariwa opposed the application saying Biti should have brought evidence of Cabinet approval of his trip.
Muchadehama told court that Mupariwa showed he was not conversant with how Cabinet and Parliament work. He said Cabinet authority is only needed for the release of the foreign currency needed for travel and does not encroach in parliamentary business.
Biti is facing charges of violating the Electoral Act for allegedly announcing that MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa won the July 30 presidential poll.
The Harare East MP was also denied asylum by the Zambian government after he tried to seek refuge in that country. He claimed that he was abducted in Zambia by unidentified Zimbabwean men.
Biti alleged the abductors forced him to cross the border and then arrested him. He told the court that he was not running away from the police, but his life was in danger.