Mutare provincial magistrate acquitted

MUTARE – Livingstone Chipadze, the provincial magistrate who was arrested after he allowed top Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) official Roy Bennett, to pay his bail, was on Wednesday acquitted after a senior magistrate ruled that there was no evidence to indicate that Chipadze had committed a criminal offence.

He was being charged for criminal abuse of office after he allowed Bennett to deposit bail and comply with other conditions as set out by the High Court on February 24.

There was ululation in the courtroom after the delivery of the ruling as Chipadze’s family, friends and court officials were overwhelmed with happiness.

Hosiah Mujaya, a senior magistrate based in Rusape, said the state had not proved beyond doubt that Chipadze committed a crime when he allowed Bennett to comply with bail conditions as ruled by the High Court. In their submissions Chipadze’s defence team had argued that the provincial magistrate had acted within the parametres of the law, in allowing Bennett to deposit bail money and to comply with other conditions.

The court heard that on 4 March 2009, the clerk of court at the magistrates courts approached Chipadze, informing him that Bennett’s lawyers wanted to comply with bail conditions as set out by High Court Judge Justice Tedious Karwi. The lawyers produced a High Court order and another one which indicated that the state would lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Chipadze consulted with the Regional Magistrate Shekani Mwaera and the Chief Magistrate in harare Herbert Mandeya, who concurred that Bennett should be allowed to deposit his bail and walk free.

But the state said Chipadze had erred in allowing Bennett to go free while fully knowing that the state intended to appeal at the Supreme Court.

Magistrate Mujaya said the state could proceed by way of summons should it unearth incriminating evidence.