HARARE - Harare magistrate Adonia Masawi has overruled Bernard Mutanga’s application for Michael Reza to stop his continuation with the prosecution of his fraud trial on the grounds that the latter had participated in an earlier case featuring Phillip Macquire.
This was after the beleaguered businessman’s lawyer Admire Rubaya had brought the surprise appeal last Thursday – causing another defence-induced postponement of the case to yesterday.
But after Masawi threw out the application “for lack of merit” on Monday, trial is set to resume on March 02, with complainant and star witness Macquire expected to continue with his evidence-in-chief.
The high-profile case and trial relates to how Mutanga allegedly tried to takeover Gurlyn Barton A (Gurlyn) Farm in Borrowdale by claiming directorship, and ownership of Twairob Investments (Private) Limited, the company which owns the land.
As such, Reza and the prosecuting authorities are of the view that the 48 year-old businessman committed fraud by falsifying information that he had lost the original deed to the land holding also known as Makomo Farm and when he knew the papers were with the Macquires.
And on February 19, Mutanga’s defence counsel initiated steps to axe the respected prosecutor on the grounds that he might use privileged information to take down his client.
“We are applying that he (Reza) recuses himself… (as) it is highly prejudicial to the accused person (Mutanga) that the counsel who participated on his behalf is now in the opposition,” Rubaya said.
“What this means is that the prosecutor… probably had access to information that the witness ordinarily didn’t have. In all fairness, the prosecutor is seeking to use content which he got from the accused person during the time he was a complainant,” he said in reference to company registration documents, which had been used in Phillip and his brother Chris’ conviction.
However, Reza strongly objected to the application on the grounds that he had simply “read out an aggravation note” on behalf of his colleague Dumisani Mthombeni and who had prosecuted the earlier case.
“… I did not prosecute in the mentioned case. That is… why he never raised that issue when this trial started,” he said.
About two weeks ago, Mutanga lost two other objections related to claims that Reza was asking the state’s main man Phillip some leading questions and whether his move to parcel out pieces of Gurlyn had actually perpetrated his alleged fraud.