Heads to roll at JSC

...anti-graft unit probes court rulings

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Tinashe Makichi/Taurai Mangudhla

Senior Harare Magistrate Morgan Nemadire is under investigation for gross misconduct after he passed a judgment deemed controversial in a case in which a Venezuelan was fined ZWL$700 for possessing cocaine with an estimated street value of US$500 000.

The February sentence on Delcy Daymar Rodriguez Guererro for possessing more than 5kg of cocaine was largely seen as light given some people have previously served for three years for possession of less than $10 worth of drugs, prompting the investigation.

The matter, insiders say, is just a tip of the iceberg as other judgments have also come under spotlight by the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office and results of which are critical to a massive shake-up expected to claim the scalps in the judiciary.

This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has taken an anti-corruption stance corruption since he came into office November 2017, recently said corruption is deeply rooted in the police, judiciary and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA).

Nemadire convicted a Venezuelan woman arrested for possession of more than 5kg of cocaine valued at US$469 000 and passed a wholly suspended sentence and a ZWL$700 fine.

Information gathered by Business Times shows that the PG’s office is questioning the sentence in light of the gravity of the case.

This has resulted in an investigation over possible misconduct and or corruption.

A source close to developments said compared to other sentences handed for drug offences of the same magnitude, NPA is concerned that the sentence handed by Nemadire sends makes the wrong precedence and defeats the course of justice.

 “For someone to be found in possession of two plants of cannabis, that person is getting a minimum of three years in jail and there was also another matter involving a Peruvian citizen found in possession of 1kg of cocaine, he was sentenced to about 15 years behind bars. So it raises eyebrows when someone who had 5kg of cocaine gets a ZWL$700
fine,” a source said.

“Therefore it’s a matter that is being looked at to ascertain what really informed the magistrate’s decision. We are still looking at why the magistrate has not been put before the Judicial Service Commission hearing or arrested.”

Judicial Services Commission (JSC) secretary Walter Chikwanha said the commission has not yet received a complaint, adding appropriate action would be taken swiftly in the event it does.

“We have not yet received any complaint against the conduct of Magistrate Nemadire but in the event that a complaint is lodged, then the JSC will have to start investigations into the matter but at the moment we are not aware of an investigation.

“As you are aware our role mainly is administrative and we cannot interfere on how judicial officers execute their duties especially on the passing of judgments,” Chikwanha said.’

However, Business Times has it on good authority that an investigation has already started in several judgments made by the judiciary that are deemed dubious.

The courts last year sentenced a Mbare woman, Veronica Matongo, to 15 years imprisonment for illegal possession of 2,3kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$185 464 while another Peruvian drug trafficker found in possession of 1kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of US$91 520 was also sentenced to 10 years imprisonment
in December last year.