The landmark trial of Bikita West Member of Parliament, Munyaradzi Kereke, opened in the Harare Magistrates Courts on Monday with the legislator denying two charges of indecent assault and rape.
He denied the charges when he appeared before magistrate Noel Mupeiwa. Prosecutors allege that sometime in March 2010 he fondled the breasts of his niece who was 15 and also raped the girl’s younger sister aged 11 three months later.
The incidents allegedly happened at Kereke’s home in Mt. Pleasant, Harare. This becomes the first high profile private prosecution case in the history of the country.
The private prosecution of Kereke was made possible after the constitutional court slapped prosecutor general Johannes Tomana with a wholly suspended 30-day sentence on condition that he issues certificates for private prosecution.
Tomana had defied rulings of the high court and the supreme court compelling him to issue the certificates. Kereke was represented by his lawyers, James Makiya and Nathaniel Chigoro.
Charles Warara is the private prosecutor. Kereke argued that the complainants took too long to report because they were being used by politicians to craft a case against him.
However, when the girl was led by Warara and cross-examined by Makiya, she told the court that she is not related to any politician, nor does she know one, adding that she doesn’t even understand politics.
The trial continues Tuesday and seven more witnesses will testify against the legislator.
Law professor and leader of the opposition National Constitutional Party Lovemore Madhuku told VOA Studio 7 the trial is a significant chapter in the country’s legal history. Madhuku also said he has it on good authority that the state will amend the law to close "loopholes" used by Warara.
Last year, permanent Secretary in the ministry of information George Charamba said government is studying the Constitutional Court judgment compelling Prosecutor General to issue certificates of private prosecution with a view to addressing contradictions in the Constitution over the power and the rights it gives to individuals and State institutions.
Charamba is quoted in the state controlled Herald newspaper as saying; the matter was beyond Mr Tomana and his office and the Constitutional Court. “The matter before us is much more complicated than has been framed in the media,” he said. “It goes beyond parameters of institutions in question and it certainly goes beyond behaviors of persons involved. There are fundamental principles that are at stake and the remedies may go beyond actions by the conflicting institutions.”