Zimbabwean Magistrate Upholds State’s Case Against Builder

Court rejects application to summon prosecutor as witness in illegal construction trial

by Victor Adetimilehin

A Harare magistrate has dismissed an attempt by George Katsimberis, a builder accused of erecting a showroom without an approved plan, to call the deputy prosecutor general as a witness in his case.

Magistrate Vongai Guwuriro issued a ruling that Michael Reza, the prosecutor, cannot be forced to testify for the defense. This decision aims to prevent any conflict of interest and maintain the court’s integrity.

She remarked, ‘This application is uncommon, evident from the absence of prior case law addressing this specific situation.’

“Section 229 provides for the calling of witnesses. There is a process that is followed. A party to a case cannot just say in court I want that person to take the witness stand and be my witness.”

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, the defense lawyer, asserted that Reza should undergo cross-examination regarding his role in the case, alleging unprofessional and malicious conduct.

Moreover, Reza denied the allegations, saying he was an officer of the court and had performed his duties under the law.

“The defense wants to bring drama into this honorable court by latching on a straw,” he said. Reza said if he had done something outrageous in the trial, the magistrate and the judge would have reprimanded him.

Katsimberis is facing charges of contravening the Regional, Town, and Country Planning Act by building a showroom in Borrowdale, an affluent suburb of Harare, without obtaining a permit from the city council.

The case of Katsimberis has drawn attention to the issue of illegal construction in Zimbabwe, where many people have resorted to building structures without following the proper procedures and regulations.

According to the Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners, the country has a backlog of over 1.5 million housing units, which has led to the proliferation of informal settlements and unauthorized developments.

The institute has called for a review of the planning laws and policies, as well as the enforcement of the existing ones, to curb the problem of illegal construction and ensure sustainable urban development.

The case also highlights the challenges faced by the judiciary in dealing with complex and sensitive cases, especially when they involve high-profile individuals and institutions.

Critics frequently accuse the judiciary of compromise, bias, or susceptibility to political and economic interests, eroding its credibility and independence.

However, some observers have commended the magistrate for upholding the rule of law and dismissing the defense’s application, saying it was a sign of judicial integrity and professionalism.

As the trial of Katsimberis resumes, many Zimbabweans are hoping for a fair and speedy resolution of the case, which has dragged on for over a year.

They are also hoping that the case will set a precedent for other cases of illegal construction and send a message that no one is above the law.

Source: The Herald 

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