ZIMBABWE – Lawyers representing former Zifa chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya in a corruption trial yesterday dumped their client after a regional magistrate rejected her application for stay of execution. Rushwaya is accused of corruptly concealing transactions from a principal.
Her lawyers Mr Jonathan Samukange assisted by Mr Dumisani Mthombeni and Mr Tafadzwa Hungwe asked to be excused from the case if trial was to continue yesterday.
When the matter resumed after a lunch break the State read out the charges to Rushwaya who was not represented. She asked the court to postpone the matter so she could seek a new legal team.
“As I stand it is just me no legal representation, I have no documentation, it is my plea to seek legal representation,” she told the court. Rushwaya said her lawyers were also inconveniencing her. “I was perturbed when my lawyers said they would not be available this afternoon (yesterday)”.
In response prosecutor Mr Oliver Marwa, who was being assisted by Mr Sidom Chinzete, said the State and court were not being personal but had a mandate to deliver justice.
He said the lawyers’ behaviour was prejudicing Rushwaya. Mr Marwa said considering the magnitude of the case it would be unfair for Rushwaya to be denied a chance to find a new legal team. Ms Chivasa ruled in favour of Rushwaya saying she had nothing against her and she did not even know her.
“It is unfortunate the legal counsel abandoned you at the 11th hour. These courts should be respected in the same manner we respect all players in this system, lawyers included,” she said. She said other players such as witnesses had also come to attend court adding that trial would proceed today without excuses.
The defence had sought an order stopping the trial until the outcome of her review application at the High Court. The defence is seeking a review of regional magistrate Mrs Esthere Chivasa’s decision to dismiss Rushwaya’s application for exception of charges.
Mr Chinzete, who is being assisted by Mr Oliver Marwa, submitted that the defence had insisted that trial be stopped pending the determination of the review application at the High Court. He produced a letter from the Attorney General’s Office to that effect. Mr Samukange confirmed the position.
However, Mrs Chivasa dismissed the letter written by M Dube from the AG’s Office saying it had no legal basis. She said an application for review could not stop proceedings at the lower courts.
Mrs Chivasa cited several case laws to support her decision. “Proceedings should not be unnecessarily interrupted… If the State did not want the accused to be tried they should not have brought her to court. I am convinced that the matter should proceed.
“The concession by the State and defence has no legal basis,” she ruled. Mr Mthombeni asked for a postponement of the matter. He said the defence’s view was that the matter would not proceed because the AG’s Office had consented to have the trial stalled.
“The AG’s Office had assumed that trial would not proceed we apply for time to prepare our defence, we would be ready tomorrow,” he said. Mrs Chivasa expressed her disappointment over the manner the defence was handling the case. “The court is not trying to be overzealous but will not rubber stamp applications which are not necessary. It would only be fair that trial proceeds whether or not you will be present,” she said.
Mr Mthombeni said Mr Samukange (not present at the time) had instructed him to withdraw from the case she ruled against the defence. Earlier Rushwaya was fined US$20 or one month imprisonment for the cancellation of a warrant of arrest, which was issued against her for failing to attend court on time.
The charges against the former Zifa boss emanate from soccer matches the senior national soccer team, the Warriors, played in Asia.
She is alleged to have arranged trips for the national soccer team to Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Oman, Jordan, Bulgaria, China, Thailand and Yemen between 2007 and 2010 without permission from her superiors. She is denying all nine counts of corruptly concealing a transaction from a principal.