Bennett’s Case: Judge turns down impeachment moves

Harare, – Zimbabwean High Court Judge Justice Chinemburu Bhunu on Wednesday ruled that the State should follow “proper laid down impeachment procedures” for Peter Michael Hitschmann.

Hitschmann is a key witness in the trial of MDC treasurer general Roy Bennett who is facing charges of terrorism, sabotage and insurgency.  

This was after the defence lawyers for deputy agriculture minister designate Bennett, objected to the manner in which the State wanted to move the impeachment of Hitschmann when the trial resumed on Tuesday.

“My ruling is simply that it is incompetent for the State to start discrediting its own witness without following proper impeachment procedures,” ruled Justice Bhunu and ordered the trial to continue.

When the State produced a statement made by Hitschmann while he was in detention at Adams’ Barracks, the key state witness and Mutare arms dealer applied for an adjournment so that he could consult his legal practitioners.

“I am placed in somewhat difficult position and I have tried to corporate as much as possible in my role as a State witness. I am convicted under POSA that is found in possession of dangerous weapons. I have since appealed against both conviction and sentence at the Supreme Court and that appeal is yet to be heard,” said Hitschmann.

He said the Attorney General is forcing him to answer questions pertaining to his trial which might be prejudicial to his appeal at the Supreme Court.

“I am prepared to assist the State in which ever manner I can but not to the extent of jeopardizing my appeal. I therefore request, if you see it fit for the AG to continue in this manner, for an adjournment for me to procure legal counsel to represent my interests,” said Hitschmann is his application.

Justice Bhnunu however dismissed the application arguing that no one would be prejudiced by the proceedings from the trial. “The witness is a competent and compellable witness who can respond to questions being asked. The witness is therefore overruled and the request for postponement is dismissed.”

During the course of the trial again Tomana tried unsuccessfully to suggest that the defence team was and has interfered with Hitschmann, an assumption that riled Beatrice Mtetwa who immediately called for protection.

The objection was duly granted and Justice Bhunu ruled: “It appears to me that you are side-tracking. There is no evidence that the defence is interfering with the witness. Please remain focused at the issues at hand.”

The trial is continuing Thursday with the State continuing with showing video evidence that Hitschmann made statements that he has departed from in his testimony.