Prosecution reprimanded for ‘sloppiness’ in handling corruption cases

By Margaret Matibiri

The National Prosecuting Authority(NPA) has been reprimanded by Justice Pisirai Kwenda following its stance on denying Marry Mubaiwa bail basing on the fact that there was a perception of “catch and release” in the manner in which they handle corruption cases.
In a ruling issued by the High Court Justice, the court had erred in accepting the argument of pre-trial incarceration as a matter of policy to deal with the problem of corruption by the State. Justice Kwenda also noted that the stance by the State was unfair and needed to be avoided at all costs.
“The State submitted there was a perception of catch and release,” reads the ruling.
“The State suggested that the perception arose from the fact that persons facing corruption charges who are admitted to bail absconded trial after their passports were returned to them and in some cases without passports.
“The submission by the State in the court a quo, which was accepted and adopted by that court, constituted the kind of megaphone posturing or grandstanding not only misplaced and unfortunate, but which must be avoided by an officer of court. It is not fair for a court official to mislead the public by blaming the bail system for the inertia in the fight against corruption.”
The Kumbirai Hodzi led NPA was called out to introspect on its way of handling corruption cases amid its unpopularity with citizens due to its way of handling cases as trials take time to kick off with “investigations” going on for months even after initial court appearances.
Justice Kwenda reiterated on the need for prosecution to put its house in order in dealing with corruption cases.
“A stakeholder in the fight against corruption should self introspect and resist the temptation to locate reason for the inertia in combating the scourge elsewhere except oneself,” reads the ruling by Justice Kwenda.
“The State is the dominant litigant in the prosecution of cases at public instance. It is in charge of investigation and timeous prosecution of crime. There is no point in commencing a prosecution without the necessary seriousness to start the trial. Trials have been delayed by postponements to complete investigations or failure to prefer correct charges or add alternative charges or failure to serve the person accused with relevant state papers or attending to interlocutory matters that could be anticipated by the State.
“The fight against corruption cannot be achieved through detention without trial or pre-trial incarceration.”
Justice Kwenda underscored on the issue of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“Any person who is accused of an offence in Zimbabwe is innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence started as a common law principle and is now enshrined in the Constitution. Accordingly, it is inappropriate for the State to argue for pre-trial incarceration as a matter of policy to deal with the problem of corruption.
Prosecutors have been called out for sloppiness in handling corruption cases in the past and the ruling by Justice Kwenda reiterates on the many issues that have been raised in the past.