Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
In a first for the Gweru Magistrates Court, a temporary court was set up at Claybank Hospital so a magistrate could see for himself the extent of illness of an accused person who had failed to turn up for remand.
Around 2pm yesterday, Gokwe Regional Magistrate Mr Taurai Manwere arrived at the hospital in the company of prosecutor Mr Mirirai Shumba, police and prisons officers to see if prominent Gweru businesswoman and property developer, Smelly Dube, the chief executive officer of River Valley Properties was indeed unwell.
Dube was arrested on Wednesday by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) on allegations of fraud to the tune of more than US$9 million and conspiracy to criminal abuse of duty by a public officer.
She was supposed to appear at court in the morning but failed to after her lawyer, Advocate Joshua Chirambwe, taking instructions from Mr Nqobani Sithole and Mr Patrick Zinyakatira, told Mr Shumba that she was unconscious.
Adv Chirambwe made an application for the court to sit at Claybank Hospital where Mr Manwere saw that Dube was indeed bedridden and could not attend court.
Mr Manwere adjourned proceedings which resumed at the Gweru Magistrates court around 3pm.
Dube was not asked to plead and was remanded to today when Mr Manwere is expected to make a ruling on whether or not to put her on remand.
“The matter is adjourned to tomorrow (today). The State can call the investigating officer and the defence can question him and I will make my ruling after,” said Mr Manwere.
Adv Chirambwe argued that the State could not put his client on remand since it had infringed on her constitutional rights from the time she was allegedly arrested while admitted to Claybank Hospital.
He said the police even took more than 48 hours to have the matter heard thereby infringing on her rights too.
“The accused was arrested after she collapsed prompting her admission to the hospital. She is not even aware that she is under arrest. The reason why the police haven’t warned and cautioned her is because of the same fact that has invited the court to this quandary. The State seeks this court to participate in or endorse or rubber stamp an unfair, unreasonable, unnecessary, unjustified, unconstitutional, irregular act that goes against the very root and spirit of justice to all,” he said.
Mr Shumba on the other hand accused defence of lying to the court.
“They are accusing the police of not informing the accused person of her constitutional rights leading to her arrest.
The defence was served with a copy of the request for remand and are opposing the accused placement on remand on the grounds that her rights in terms of the constitution were infringed.
“We do have communication electronic between accused person and head office regarding how her arrest took place.
The defence is lying that there isn’t such,” he said.
On count one, it is the State case that Dube allegedly worked with the likes of former Midlands Governor Jason Machaya and former senior Government official Matilda Manhambo to be allocated land which she developed without engineering designs.
As a result, 669 beneficiaries suffered prejudice of over US$460 000.
On count two, Dube, working with Machaya and former Gweru District Administrator Sherpad Marweri allegedly allocated State land defrauding the Government of US$9million.