PLUMTREE senior magistrate Steven Mavuna (31) yesterday appeared before Bulawayo regional magistrate Trinos Wutawashe to answer charges of criminal abuse of office after allegedly hiding several court records prompting many cases to be jeopardised.
Mavuna, who was represented by a lawyer Dumisani Dube, pleaded not guilty to the charges saying it was instead the clerk of court who was in the habit of hiding court records.
Prosecutor Goodluck Katenaire told the court that between 2009 and 2012, Mavuna, who was the senior magistrate at the Plumtree Courts before his recent transfer to Kezi, presided over criminal cases in which he gave various sentences.
The sentences required that the records of proceedings be sent to the Regional Court for scrutiny and then to the High Court in Bulawayo for review and appeal before a judge within seven days of the sentences.
It is alleged Mavuna did not send the records to Bulawayo, but kept them in his office and later reportedly caused their disappearance.
The records have not been recovered and Mavuna is being accused of prejudicing appellants by denying them justice.
To cover up for the offence, Mavuna allegedly made false entries in scrutiny and review registers.
This was reportedly discovered and reported to the police, leading to Mavuna’s arrest and recovery of the Criminal Record Book covers in his office.
The record of proceedings was not recovered. The State presented nine exhibits to be used in court during Mavuna’s trial. The exhibits comprise a review register covering 2004-2008, appeals register for 2008-2012, empty files which bear names of the accused persons, records for appeals given to Mavuna and records for review and scrutiny.
Mavuna denied the charge saying he did all that was required of him as a magistrate only to discover that the clerk of court was in the habit of hiding the records.
“All the records I was dealing with were taken to the clerk of court offices. I was shocked to discover that the clerk of court was in the habit of hiding the records. One of the clerks, Patient Niti, has since confessed to that effect saying for years they had been doing that,” Mavuna said.
“I then requested that the State produces criminal record books from 2006-2012 and review and appeal registers covering that period. A physical search of the courts by the State would reveal that even this time those records are still missing.”
Mavuna said it is within the State’s powers to subpoena magistrate Mark Dzira who was his supervisor at that time in Plumtree.
He said when the records disappeared he raised the issue with Dzira who also conveyed the issue to the then Matabeleland South provincial magistrate Douglas Zvenyika, who has since passed away.