On Monday the Registrar Godfrey Nthomiwa only stated that they were aware of Zimbabwe reports. "I can't say what we are going to do right now, but we are aware of the reports in newspapers," was all Nthomiwa could share with this paper.
However, he confirmed that Manzunzu reported for duty on Monday, upon returning from a holiday in Zimbabwe. The Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo on the other hand referred all enquiries to Nthomiwa.
Contacted for comment yesterday afternoon, Manzunzu said that he was not prepared to comment and referred our enquiries to Nthomiwa. The Herald Newspaper of Zimbabwe reported last Friday through its online version that Manzunzu appeared before a Magistrate Court in Harare facing two counts of fraud, allegedly committed between 2000 and 2003 while he was working for the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs as the Registrar and Sheriff of the High Court of Zimbabwe.
The paper reports that he was responsible for authorising auctions at the High Court, and is reported to have fraudulently and unlawfully auctioned several houses belonging to certain individuals, acting together with three other people who have already appeared before the court.
Meanwhile local lawyers have expressed mixed feelings about what is likely to happen if the deputy registrar is indeed facing the charges.
A private lawyer who preferred not to be mentioned by name, for fear of victimisation, said that if it is true that the deputy registrar is facing charges, this could impact badly on the image of the Administration of Justice in Botswana.
He argued that the position of Registrar and Master of the High Court, or the Deputy is held in high esteem, whose credibility should be protected. He said that at the time the alleged crime was committed, Manzunzu was holding a position equivalent to that of deputy registrar in Botswana. He said that it is upon the employer to make a decision on whether to indict the accused person and wait for the outcome of the court case, which may drag on for years.
He said that any person may use the issue of jurisdiction as a defence especially if the charges are not compromising their performance in the execution of their duties.
On the other hand, Leader of MELS movement and practicing attorney Temba Joina says it would be unfair for any employer to take action against an employee on the basis of mere allegations that have not been tested before a court of law.
"In the rule of law, the basic principle is that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The same law says any person from the Vice-President downwards may be slapped with criminal charges," he said.
He argued that a person may suffer prejudice if they are forced to resign their position on mere allegations for which evidence has not been before court. "What if the accusers fail to support their charges and subsequently drop them, then the person would have lost his job," he said. Joina cautioned that Manzunzu may be a victim of the Zimbabwe government officials targeting Zimbabweans doing well abroad, and using the trumped up charges to deny them livelihood.
The Public Service Act of 2008 and the High Court Act are silent on what should happen when a senior government official, or Registrar is facing criminal charges outside the jurisdiction of Botswana's courts.