Chombo case sucks in ex-Harare town planner

Chombo case sucks in ex-Harare town planner
Former Minister of Finance Dr Ignatius Chombo being escorted into Harare Magistrates’ Courts under military police and prison security during his bail ruling yesterday. — Picture by John Manzongo

Former Minister of Finance Dr Ignatius Chombo being escorted into Harare Magistrates’ Courts under military police and prison security during his bail ruling recently. — Picture by John Manzongo

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Former Harare City town planner Psychology Chiwanga has been arrested in connection with ex-Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo’s alleged underhand dealings at council over a decade ago.

Chiwanga is being charged as an accomplice in Chombo’s three counts of corruption.

He appeared before magistrate Ms Josephine Sande on Tuesday, who remanded him in custody to December 8.

State lawyer Mr Edmore Nyazamba confirmed the development.

“The parties agreed that the accused (Chiwanga) be placed on remand in custody to 8 December,” said Mr Nyazamba. “No applications were made. His lawyer told the court that he needed time to consult with his client before any application is made.”

When Chombo appeared in court on Saturday last week, it was revealed in one of the charges that he violated Section 4(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 9:16) when he allegedly connived with Chiwanga, R. Pazvakavambwa, Iben Fransisco, James Chiyangwa, Theresa Chenjerayi, Elias Choto and L. Chimimba to forge documents to transfer a Glen Lorne, Harare, property from the Harare City Council to one Alois Chimeri.

The arrest of Chiwanga comes as Chombo, through his lawyer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, yesterday approached the High Court appealing for bail pending trial.

In the grounds of appeal, Prof Madhuku argued that the magistrate misdirected himself at law in failing to find that “compelling reasons” demanded by Section 50(1)(d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013, had not been established by the State to warrant the refusal of bail.

He said there was no evidence to prove that Chombo was likely to abscond or would interfere with witnesses if granted bail.

Prof Madhuku was also insisting that a compelling reason is one that remains, notwithstanding bail conditions.

He said the law on bail had been fundamentally altered by section 50(1)(d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013.

“The fundamental change is that bail is now a constitutional right,” said prof Madhuku. “It must be granted, as of right, unless there are compelling reasons.”

Prof Madhuku further stated in the grounds of appeal that the State did not address any of the conditions offered by his client, arguing there can be no compelling reasons without showing the ineffectiveness of releasing a suspect on reasonable conditions.

“The State itself did not show the strength of its case,” he said. “It merely focused on the seriousness of the charge and the likely sentence. This is not sufficient. The law requires an examination of the strength of the case.”

Chombo was on Monday denied bail by the magistrates’ courts and remanded in custody to December 8.

In denying Chombo bail, magistrate Mr Elisha Singano noted that the former minister was a flight risk and could interfere with State witnesses.

Mr Singano said Chombo was better off in custody as he could be the target of a mob attack over the allegations that he abused his position when he was Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Hous- ing.

Chombo, who is accused of several fraud charges, including trying to swindle the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, was arrested following the Zimbabwe Defence Forces intervention code- named “Operation Restore Legacy”, which it said was targeting criminals around former President Robert Mugabe.

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