Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
FORMER chief magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe yesterday said the criminal abuse of office charges against him were inspired by malice on the part of his colleagues whom he had reprimanded for sexually harassing female members of staff, including magistrates.
Guvamombe is facing charges of defeating the course of justice after he allegedly directed a subordinate, Mr Elijah Makomo, to recuse himself in a trial involving his alleged business partner’s son.
On the second charge, he is being accused of offering internship to former ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira and former Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who were both studying law at the University of Zimbabwe.
Guvamombe was yesterday formerly charged with the two counts when his trial commenced before Anti-Corruption Judge of the High Court Justice Felistus Chatukuta.
The judge adjourned the trial to today to allow the defence to peruse a record of tribunal proceedings on the inquiry into Guvamombe’s alleged misconduct of similar allegations two years ago.
A judicial committee on ethics and conduct that was set up by Chief Justice Luke Malaba then, to investigate Guvamombe in March 2018, cleared him of any wrongdoing regarding charges that he allegedly influenced a subordinate to recuse himself in a matter he had interest in.
Guvamombe is denying both charges and questioning the prosecution’s motive to bring the same allegations he had been cleared of, arguing his conduct did not constitute abuse warranting criminal sanctions.
Through his lawyer, Mr Jonathan Samukange, Guvamombe claimed that his erstwhile colleagues are behind his prosecution.
“These are trumped up allegations motivated by malice on the part of his erstwhile colleagues who are being vindictive after having reprimanded them on diverse occasions from committing sexual harassment on female members of staff including magistrates. There were irregular payments of allowances to the secretariat and to the exclusion of magistrates and failure to use retention funds to improve operations in the department,” said Mr Samukange.
“For example, at Harare Magistrates Court, litigants use the bucket system in all the toilets as there is no running water. This was replicated at most magisterial stations in the country.”
Mr Samukange also told the court that Guvamombe instructed one key witness, Mr Makomo, then regional magistrate to recuse himself from the case involving a complainant Mr Nighert Parween Savania after he received a complaint from one Nathan Mnaba that Makomo had been bribed with US$8 000 by Savania to convict Mnaba.
The money, said the lawyer, was handed to Makomo by one Sappa.
Prosecutor Mr Whisper Mabhaudi told the court that charges against Guvamombe arose sometime in June 2017, when former regional magistrate Elijah Makomo was assigned a criminal case in which one Nathan Mnaba was the accused and Nighert Savania the complainant.
During the trial, it is alleged, numerous applications were made by the defence which were dismissed due to lack of merit. This, however, provoked the defence to approach Makomo, who was presiding over the matter on June 26, 2017 demanding his recusal from the case.
But Makomo allegedly turned down the request and advised the parties to file their application at the High Court.
Makomo was later advised to report to Guvamombe’s office with Nathan’s court record and was told that he was mishandling the matter and as such, should disqualify himself. Guvamombe allegedly went on to handle the complainant’s case despite the fact that he had a previous business relationship with Mnaba’s father.
On the second charge, the prosecution accused Guvamombe of approving the internship of Mandiwanzira and Kasukuwere at the Magistrates Court at a time when they were facing criminal charges emanating from their days in power.
It is alleged that Guvamombe, while aware that the two ex-ministers had pending criminal cases before the courts, approved their internship, putting the integrity of the judicial system into disrepute.
He allegedly authorised the attachment of the duo by appending his signature and referred the correspondence to the deputy chief magistrate for action without any comments or reservations.
Mandiwanzira and Kasukuwere were attached at the magistrates’ courts for internship although they had allegations of corruption being levelled against them.