Zim minister acquitted in bribery case

Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was on Monday acquitted of trying to bribe a witness not to testify against a Cabinet colleague accused of inciting violence.

“The [prosecution] has dismally failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the accused is therefore found not guilty and acquitted,” magistrate Phineas Chipokoteke told a court in Rusape, 180km east of Harare.

“A close analysis shows inconsistency and evasiveness in the witness’s evidence and, as always, evidence from one witness has to be treated with caution.”

Chinamasa was accused of trying to stop James Kaunye, a prosecution witness, from testifying against a supporter of Minister of State for National Security Didymus Mutasa. The minister has been accused of inciting public violence.

Kaunye told the court during the trial that Chinamasa had offered him a farm if he withdrew public violence charges against Albert Nyakuedzwa, Mutasa’s supporter.

Nyakuedzwa and 23 other Mutasa supporters are accused of assaulting Kaunye in the Makoni North constituency in eastern Zimbabwe two years ago ahead of primary elections to choose the ruling party candidate for the March polls.

Kaunye unsuccessfully ran against Mutasa in the primary election.

Chinamasa had pleaded not guilty, dismissing the charges against him as “baseless, false and malicious”.

“This was basically meant to harass and embarrass me, wear me down and cause me to be kicked out of the system,” Chinamasa told journalists after his acquittal.

“There was no evidence from the onset to justify mounting a case against or prosecuting me.”

Chinamasa denied persuading Kaunye to withdraw charges against Mutasa’s supporters, saying he went to visit Kaunye to try to bring peace in the district following in-fighting between ruling party supporters.—Sapa-AFP

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