A St Paul’s Musami priest-in-charge was back in court yesterday in a matter in which he is being accused of poisoning the school head with cyanide.
Father Ugenio Phiri pleaded not guilty to assault charges before Harare magistrate Munashe Chibanda.
The complainant is 53-year-old Richard Hlombe, who is the school head.
Allegations are that on March 1 this year, Hlombe drove from St Paul’s Musami High School in Murewa to Msasa Training Bureau, to attend an education workshop.
It is the State case that Phiri and Hlombe, together with other members who attended the workshop, went to have breakfast at the campus restaurant.
As they were queuing for breakfast, it is alleged Phiri started distributing tea cups to other members, who were in the queue.
The court heard that a considerable number of guests, including Hlombe, received cups from Phiri and went on to serve themselves. After drinking the tea, Hlombe started feeling stomach pains and sought medical attention, as he suspected food poisoning.
Several tests were conducted to determine whether or not he had consumed poison.
The test results showed that he had consumed cyanide.
Phiri has denied the allegations.
He said the malicious allegations were emanating from the belief that there was a long-standing enmity, between them.
He told the court that he was never in possession of any form of poison, which would have enabled him to commit the offence.
Neither did he give Hlombe a cup laced with poison.
“These charges are entirely malicious and are based on the complainant’s erroneous perception that there is enmity between Phiri and himself.
“He does not perceive the complainant as his enemy at all, notwithstanding that the complainant himself holds a totally different view, which led him to raise these false allegations against the accused person,” reads parts of the defence outline.
It added that Hlombe had other underlying issues, which caused the stomach pains, not the poison as alleged.
In cross examination, Hlombe conceded he had reported Phiri several times for “interfering” with his job.
However, he said it wasn’t necessarily bad blood as whenever they had issues, they were resolved. The matter will be back in court on September 27 for trial continuation.
Tinos Masimba appeared for the State.