Reprieve For Biti As Court Vetoes Travel Prohibition And Faults Biased Prosecutor
A ZIMBABWEAN court on Thursday 15 November 2018 allowed Tendai Biti, an opposition party legislator to attend a crucial continental meeting in Uganda after vetoing a decision by Acting Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi, who had turned down his request for the temporary release of his passport to allow him to travel outside the country.
Hodzi had early this month turned down Biti’s application for the temporary release of his passport, which is currently being held by the Clerk of Court at Harare Magistrates Court as part of his bail conditions, to allow him to attend a crucial continental meeting convened by the African Organisation of Public Accounts Committees (AFROPAC) in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala, running from Monday 19 November 2018 to Friday 23 November 2018.
In declining to release the MDC-Alliance party legislator’s passport, Hodzi claimed that Biti is facing criminal charges at Harare Magistrates Court and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was keen to afford him a fair and public trial within a reasonable time as provided in section 69 of the Constitution.
But Harare Magistrate Gloria Takundwa on Thursday 15 November 2018 granted an application by Biti for the variation of his bail conditions and ordered the Clerk of Court at Harare Magistrates Court to temporarily release his passport to allow him to attend AFROPAC.
Magistrate Takundwa ruled that the State failed to provide cogent reasons of how granting the application for the release of Biti’s passport would jeopardise the interests of justice.
Magistrate Takundwa said Biti is unlikely to abscond given his parliamentary duties as a legislator for Harare East constituency.
Meanwhile, Magistrate, Takundwa on Thursday 15 November 2018 granted an application by Biti seeking the removal of Michael Reza of the NPA as lead prosecutor on the basis that he was biased and unsuitable to preside over his prosecution.
Magistrate Takundwa stated that she had not found anything showing bias on the part of Reza until in his own words he admitted that he had responded in a notice of opposition to an affidavit filed by Biti in the High Court in another matter in a political tone.
Magistrate Takundwa ruled that under no circumstance is a prosecutor allowed to respond in a political manner or assume a political tone in his or her work and that Reza’s conduct fell short of what is expected of a prosecutor in terms of both section 260 and 261 of the Constitution.
Magistrate Takundwa stated that there was a real possibility of bias against Biti if Reza continued presiding over the trial.
Biti returns to court on 10 December 2018 for his trial.