Summary of Case
The State outline indicated that as of 2006, the Government had put in place a fuel facility for all Government hospitals in the country where each hospital procured fuel from the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) at subsidized prices. In addition, the Ministry of Health had a facility whereby certain staff members on duty were allowed to purchase a specified quantity of fuel from NOCZIM at subsidized prices.
The allegations against Basile were that on 219 occasions during the period 1 January 2006 to 10 June 2008, she abused the Ministry of Health fuel facility by causing the sale or the free issuance of 6890 litres of petrol and 680 litres of diesel to undeserving hospital staff.
The State further alleged that:
– during the same period, and on 148 occasions Basile abused the Ministry of Health facility by causing the sale of or the free issuance of 4345 litres of diesel and 3092 litres of petrol to non-hospital staff.
– during the period extending from 1 January 2006 to the 10th of June 2008 and on 15 occasions, she allowed or caused the purchase of medical drugs on 14 occasions from Medwise Pharmacy and from Cypred Pharmacy without going to tender.
Basiles trial was brought to a premature end in November 2009 when Michael Mugabe, a Chief Law Officer in the AGs office, issued an internal Memorandum to Mr Karimuriwo, the Prosecutor-In-Charge at Harare Magistrates Court instructing him to stop the trial in terms of Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. Mr Mugabe indicated in the memo that it was not in the best interests of the State to continue with the trial. He did not elaborate.
Basile was a very senior Government official, responsible for the administration of a public service of the most essential nature. Her actions adversely affected the hospitals ability to discharge its mandate of health delivery to the community. It is alleged in the State Outline that her criminal activity not only promoted the illegal sale of fuel on the black market, it also caused the loss of life.
At the time, the country was experiencing an acute shortage of fuel, which in turn severely limited the Governments ability to deliver basic essential services. Contrary to Mugabes assertion it is not in the interests of the State to engage in actions that have the effect of condoning corruption by high ranking officials.
In light of the fact that Basile had entered a plea of not guilty when Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act was invoked by the AG she was entitled to a verdict and she was therefore acquitted of all charges against her.
X head Conclusion
(i) The decision by the AG to curtail the criminal proceedings against Basile undermined the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Police who had painstakingly collected and collated evidence of corruption by a high-ranking Government official.
(ii) The invoking of Section 9 compelled the court to return a verdict of not guilty in favour of Basile without having had the benefit of hearing the entire evidence.
(iii) The manner in which the instruction to the Public Prosecutor to invoke Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act was communicated suggests that the trial Prosecutor was not consulted for his views prior to the instruction being issued. Indeed, it is clear that the prosecutor had not made any representations in this regard – he had called eight out of a possible 22 witnesses.
(iv) This means that the AG either made the decision to invoke Section 9 on his own without having considered the evidence, or he received representations on the case from elsewhere and then proceeded to curtail the proceedings without consulting the Prosecutor.
(v) This in itself provides more than sufficient grounds for an investigation into the propriety of the AGs action. He should explain publicly on what grounds he came to the conclusion that it was not in the best interests of the State to prosecute a Government official accused of massive corruption which resulted in the death of Zimbabweans. Public interest demands that reasons for facilitating the acquittal of a senior public official accused of corruption be investigated. The acquittal means that the official is probably still in Government employment and may very well be continuing with the conduct he/she was accused of. Next week we will publish the case of Bright Matonga.Post published in: News