By A Correspondent| State prosecutor Michael Reza recently exposed Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti Guwuriro and other court attendees to the deadly COVID-19 after allowing opposition legislator Tendai Biti inside the courtroom despite an earlier communication that he had been in contact with an infected person.
This happened last week when Biti was expected to attend trial in a case where he is being accused of insulting a Russian woman Tatiana Aleshina.
Biti’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama told Magistrate Muchuchuti that Biti could not attend the court as he had been in contact with COVID-19 positive person at his offices.
“Your worship my client is in isolation and he is also present at this Court premises , he is observing World Health Organisation and government’s prescribed guidelines as the world grapples to fight covid 19 pandemic”, said Muchadehama.
But prosecutor Reza could not have any of it pushing the court to slap Biti with a warrant of arrest for defaulting trial.
“COVID-19 positive or not, we do not know any of that at all… in fact section 194 (2) of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act says if the accused person absents himself during the trial without leave of the courts, I did not hear this court excusing the accused not to be here all we have is a letter from a law firm which is saying certain things.
“Your worship that letter from a law firm cannot be a substitute for COVID-19 positive results, this is a lawyer who is just saying has been in contact with somebody who has turned out to be COVID-19 positive. What we do not know is for a fact whether the person mentioned to be COVID-19 positive is indeed positive. This person was warned to appear before this court at 0900hrs, leave has not been granted to absent himself so therefore a warrant of arrest must be issued,” charged Reza.
Sensing trouble, Biti who was in the vicinity of the magistrates court had to get into the courtroom in a move that saw Magistrate Muchuchuti adjusting her mask in fear of being infected with the deadly disease.
The Harare Magistrates Court has since closed doors as part of efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
According to a practice direction document from the Chief Justice, all the courts from the magistrates to Constitutional court are only open to initial remands; urgent applications and processes; and bail applications.