Nyagura's trial in false start

HARARE - Suspended University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Levi Nyagura’s trial was yesterday deferred to October 22, pending the outcome of his Constitutional Court (Con-Court) application for stay of prosecution.

Nyagura stands accused of criminal abuse of office after he allegedly corruptly awarded a PhD to former first lady Grace Mugabe.

His lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri directly approached the Con-Court and filed an application challenging the Special Anti-Corruption Unit set by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to prosecute Nyagura.

Uriri filed the application after Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube had ruled that there is nothing stopping the commencement of trial until Nyagura files an application with the Con-Court.

Yesterday, Ncube ruled that trial cannot kick-off pending the outcome of Nyagura’s application with the Con-Court.

“In light of the Con-Court application, trial cannot start today,” Lazini Ncube said before remanding the case.

However, Uriri indicated to the court that he will not be appearing in court on that date for personal reasons.

Before approaching the Con-Court, Uriri had argued that Nyagura’s right to a fair trial will be trivialised because the prosecuting team is captured by the State.

He argued that the people who assist the Prosecutor General are employed by the National Prosecuting Authority board and that the prosecutors Tapiwa Godzi and Michael Chakandida were not appointed by the NPA Board.

“They have been placed under the president. Their salaries are paid by the president and they are bound by the Official Secrets Act. They have both investigative and prosecuting rights. They serve at the pleasure of the president who can remove them from office anytime,” he argued.

According to State papers, sometime in 2011, Nyagura single-handedly accepted and approved Grace’s application to study for a PhD in Sociology without the knowledge of the Department Board and the Faculty of Higher Degrees Committee.

The court heard that Nyagura then appointed professors Claude Mararike and Isaac Chaneta to supervise her thesis without the board’s approval.

It is alleged that Nyagura further usurped powers and appointed examiners in violation of the University of Zimbabwe Act Chapter 25:16 and Ordinances 1998/99 volume 11 which gives that prerogative to the Senate committee.

Sometime in 2014, Nyagura allegedly led supervisors and examiners to Grace’s Mazowe Estate where the defence oral examination was purportedly done without knowledge and approval of the academic committee.

According to State papers, the oral examination is supposed to be done at the UZ premises.

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