Former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo and ex-Zanu-PF Youth Leader Kudzanai Chipanga were yesterday sent to remand prison after their freedom bids hit a brick wall.
Chombo unsuccessfully pleaded with the court to grant him $2 000 bail and to report three times a day to the police. Chombo is also the former Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration.
The pair were brought to court under military and police guard. They were not dressed in prison garb. Harare magistrates Mr Elisha Singano and Ms Josephine Sande, who are presiding over the cases, dismissed the pair’s bail applications and ruled that they be caged.
The magistrates said the State managed to proffer compelling reasons justifying the continued detention of the duo. In his ruling, Mr Singano said there was overwhelming evidence against Chombo and if granted bail the public would lose confidence in the justice system.
He said Chombo was likely to interfere with witnesses and investigations considering that as a former minister he wielded so much power.
“The accused person may interfere with investigations and as a former minister, he is likely to influence witnesses since some of them are his former subordinates,” he said.
He said that if convicted, Chombo faced a lengthy prison term and was likely to abscond trial if granted bail.
“Given his position coupled with the gravity of the offence and the likely penalty, the accused might abscond as he has connections outside the country as a former minister,” he said.
“In as much as he is willing to surrender his passport, let us not forget that our borders are porous and one can easily cross into other countries without a passport and the accused might do the same.”
The court further ruled that Chombo’s life was at risk if released saying he was likely to be attacked by the angry public whose funds he is accused of having abused.
“The State is alleging that he abused public funds and there is overwhelming evidence.
It is the court’s view that even the RBZ case, the state’s case is stronger. It is documented that he used the funds for other purposes not the intended use,” he said.
“These are public funds and we heard from the investigating officer that the mob wanted to attack him on Saturday when he appeared in court. This means that his safety is at risk and the only option of securing his safety is to remand him in custody.”
Mr Singano concurred with the State that the release of Chombo would cause an outcry.
Ms Sande in her ruling said the court could not rule out interference. “The court is there to protect the public and the accused. The accused’s security should be guaranteed for proper functioning of the justice system. Considering the Saturday incident, his safety is at risk,” she said.
According to the testimony of the investigating officer, on Saturday there was a mob that chanted slogans denouncing Chipanga’s actions. He told the court that the mob was shouting saying: “It is high time you get locked up. It is pay back time. Go and conduct your interface rallies at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.”
Ms Sande added, “The issue of his security being at stake coupled with other factors that have been mentioned by the State like interference, abscondment and the lengthy sentence proffered by the State, it is the court’s view that these are compelling reasons justifying the detention of the accused person therefore bail is denied,” she said.
In their separate bail applications, Chombo and Chipanga represented by Professor Lovemore Madhuku assisted by Mr Tungamirai Muganhiri submitted that they were presumed innocent until proven guilty. They also disagreed with the State that they were on the run saying that they were in custody as they had been abducted by unidentified state agents.
“Bail should not be denied on flimsy reasons. It is unconstitutional to deny a person presumed innocent bail. Even those facing treason charges are granted bail because bail is a right according to the New Constitution,” said Professor Madhuku.
Law officer Mr Edmore Nyazamba with the assistance of Mr Tapiwa Kasema opposed bail and called the investigating officers Superintendent Joseph Mutiforo and Detective Inspector Onismo Chikomba to the witness Stand.
They told the court that Chombo and Chipanga were not proper candidates for bail. They narrated how the pair tried to evade arrest.
Supt Mutiforo said: “It took us eight days to find him (Chipanga) since the day he committed the offence. The way he has been playing hide and seek with us shows that the propensity of absconding is high.”
“If he was abducted, did he make a report of abduction? If someone is genuinely abducted, he or she makes a report against the perpetrators but there is none.”
Det Insp Chikomba said Chombo had a lot of influence and was likely to continue doing so upon release.
“If released there will be public outcry because during the demonstrations which took place recently, we heard that there were criminals around former President who were abusing public funds and this case is a good example.”
The duo was remanded in custody to December 8.
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