BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
A HARARE magistrate yesterday gave the State two months to organise the extradition of former Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi from South Africa to face charges of criminal abuse of office and fraud.
The State represented by Brian Vito had asked for the court to extend the remand period to allow for Mzembi’s extradition, saying the process was long.
Mzembi is being charged together with Aaron Mushoriwa and Susanna Makombe Kuhudzayi and on another docket is being charged with his former permanent secretary Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe.
Vito told magistrate Hosea Mujaya that they were unable to proceed to trial without the former minister and were in the process of extraditing him from South Africa where he is holed up.
“Your Worship you will note that we are unable to proceed to trial without Mzembi and we have made a process to extradite him from South Africa. We cannot withdraw the charges of the co-accused before plea because the accused persons will disappear. We are asking for a long remand so that we do the process which takes long,” Vito told court.
Farai Mushoriwa, who is representing Aaron Mushoriwa and Kuhudzayi challenged the long remand and asked the court to remove his clients from remand saying the State undertook that yesterday was the last remand date before trial and if not they would be removed from remand.
“The State undertook on last remand that it was the last postponement before trial after that the accused will be removed from remand. It will be an infringement of the accused persons’ right to keep them coming to court for over a year without being tried. There is no prejudice if the court removes them from remand since the State will always proceed by way of summons. Mujaya, however, postponed the matter to May 7 saying if it were not an anti-corruption matter he would have removed the suspects from remand.
The State has written to Mzembi’s lawyer requesting to be furnished with a medical report stating his health condition saying the report from the social media indicates his life was not in danger.
Mzembi’s lawyer Job Sikhala, however, defended his client saying he was critically ill and unable to travel for trial. Sikhala also said the video which was circulating on social media was taken in 2016 during Mzembi’s stint as Tourism minister.