Zimbabwe: Jailed Church Sect Leader Katsiru Wrongly Convicted - AG

Harare, Zimbabwe - JAILED Johane Masowe weChishanu Apostolic Church (Marondera) sect leader Lawrence Katsiru could be released today after the prosecution yesterday conceded that he was wrongfully convicted for raping a teenage church member.

Appearing for the State, Mr Lawrence Phiri of the Attorney-General's Office told the High Court that the prosecutor in the lower court had not been able to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt for the trial court to secure Katsiru's conviction.

Mr Phiri made the concession at the appeal hearing by Katsiru, who is seeking the quashing of the conviction and nine-year jail term imposed on him by regional magistrate Mrs Lillian Kudya in 2004.

Judge President Rita Makarau and Justice Chinembiri Bhunu are sitting as an appeals court.

"The case was not properly investigated. If it had been properly investigated, the trial court could have come out with a proper decision," said Mr Phiri.

In his submissions, Mr Phiri agreed with the defence that there were gross inconsistencies in the State's evidence which the trial court ignored and went on to convict Katsiru.

He said despite the fact that the prosecutor in the regional court, in his closing submission, told the court that he had not been able to establish a prima facie case - evidence of all facts essential to make or build a case - against Katsiru, the magistrate convicted him.

When asked by the court on the effect of the girl's evidence in view of the inconsistencies cited, Mr Phiri said: "This has gone a long way to dent her own reputation as a credible witness.

"In this case she was a good witness in the sense that she articulated herself very well, while the magistrate and the prosecutor sat back and allowed her to continue giving evidence without clarifying issues," he added.

The court also asked the prosecutor as to why one of the police officers who testified in court was not impeached in view of the nature of his testimony that was not favourable to the State.

Mr Phiri said he could not give any reason for that, but conceded that the effect of that evidence was damaging to the prosecution's case.

"After going through the record, we felt we could not support this conviction at all," he said.

Justice Bhunu quizzed the law officer as to why it had taken the AG's Office two years to make the concessions it made yesterday.

Mr Phiri said he was assigned to deal with the case about three months ago, before the appeal was brought to court.

Earlier on, Advocate Eric Matinenga, who is representing Katsiru, argued that the trial court failed to consider the evidence presented before it and consequently misdirected itself in convicting his client.

Adv Matinenga said it was impossible for Katsiru to have raped the girl, as his niece Ms Roseline Majiranji was always present in his car.

"A careful analysis of complainant's evidence clearly shows that she was not a reliable witness and that the other surrounding circumstances did not point to the guilt of the appellant (Katsiru)," he said.

Adv Matinenga said had proper investigations been done in the case, the girl's claims could have been disproved.

"Even a horrible suspicion cannot amount to proof beyond reasonable doubt," he said.

Katsiru, a prominent farmer and politician, was jailed for nine years for raping a 13-year-old church member.

He had tried on several occasions to get bail pending appeal, but failed.

The trial court heard that Katsiru raped the girl after offering to counsel her.

This was after her parents had complained that the girl was misbehaving.

Katsiru later offered to help and pledged to spiritually cleanse the girl since her parents had given up on her waywardness.

Purportedly playing good counsellor, Katsiru drove the girl to his farm, just outside Marondera.

While on the way, the court heard, Katsiru started fondling and kissing the girl without her consent before raping her once. Katsiru vehemently denied the allegations through and through.