Zim’s chief prosecutor in hot water over Biti trial message

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HARARE, 11 December 2018 – Zimbabwe’s chief prosecutor Michael Reza – forced to recuse himself from the ongoing trial of MDC Alliance MP Tendai Biti – labelled a magistrate “very brave or very stupid” for allowing the live streaming of court proceedings, a court heard on Tuesday.

Reza sent a message to Thabani Mpofu, who heads the President’s Special Prosecuting Unit, criticising magistrate Gloria Takundwa for making “another strange ruling” after she granted an application by Biti’s lawyers for his trial proceedings to be streamed live on TV and the internet.

The message, read in court on Tuesday morning, said: “Cde Mpofu. It’s Reza, how are you? Another strange ruling by the magistrate trying Tendai Biti. They applied for live streaming of the case, with cameras and journalists in court and proceedings beamed all over the world. She has just agreed to that without authority of her boss the Chief Justice. She is either very brave or very stupid or both kkkkkk.”

Biti’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said Reza should be held in contempt of court. Takundwa said she was referring the matter to the high court for guidance.

Biti, a former finance minister, is on trial for allegedly announcing unofficial results of the July 30 presidential election in violation of provisions of the Electoral Act.

In November, Takundwa forced Reza to stand down as Biti’s prosecutor over a politically-charged filing the chief law officer made at the high court while opposing Biti’s application for an exception to the charges. Biti contended that he was illegally before the court after he was seized by Zimbabwean state security agents in Zambia, where he had sought asylum, before being brought back to Zimbabwe.

Reza, in his opposing affidavit to Biti’s high court application, said: “This is merely political grandstanding by the applicant. There was never an assassination attempt on the life of the applicant.

“In fact, the events of August 1 were a result of the conduct of the applicant who incited members of the public to engage in public violence culminating in the unfortunate death of people.

“The only violence that occurred was done by members of the MDC Alliance at the behest of the applicant who wouldn’t accept the presidential results in which his preferred candidate lost.”

Mtetwa, when applying for Reza to be stood down as the prosecutor, said: “Reza has convicted the accused person before full trial. His utterances do not show impartiality and independence; therefore, he can no longer discharge the mandate of the prosecutor in terms of the law.

“The accused applies that he be prosecuted fairly by a prosecutor who won’t show partisan traits. It will be prejudicial for the accused person if Reza represents the State.”

Tafadzwanashe Mpariwa led the prosecution case when Biti’s trial got underway on Monday.

– African News Agency (ANA)