Nyore Madzianike–Senior Court Reporter
Deputy Minister Douglas Karoro and his two alleged accomplices were yesterday granted $50 000 bail, each by a Harare Magistrate although the State had opposed bail.
Karoro is Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development and is charged with fraudulently acquiring inputs from Mushumbi Pools GMB depot worth US$73 300. The fertiliser, maize seed and horticulture kits he is alleged to have got hold of, with the depot manager also facing charges, were meant for the Presidential Inputs Scheme for Mbire farmers.
He was arrested on Friday and spent the weekend in custody.
Besides the three appearing yesterday and the depot manager last week a fifth accused was arrested almost two weeks ago. The depot manager, Lovejoy Ngowe, is expected back in court today for a ruling on his bail application.
Yesterday through his defence lawyers Karoro denied all charges and claimed that his arrest was caused by his political adversaries wanting to soil his name and so obtain the Zanu PF nomination for his Mbire seat in the National Assembly.
Karoro is jointly charged with Jeremy Phiri and Dean Dzimunya, with all facing three counts of fraud, the same as the depot manager who appeared in court last week.
The three are being represented by lawyers Mr Admire Rubaya, Mr Malvern Mapako, Mr Augustine Borerwe and Mr Lucky Dube.
“They did not cause anyone to act on misrepresentation or to anyone. The dispatch vouchers which the State claims to be in possession of, were not created by any of the accused,” said Mr Rubaya in the bail application.
“If evidence of the fraud is based on the documents, then surely the State case is grounded on jelly legs. It is not a serious case and the accused deny that they misrepresented to anyone. He represents the people of Mbire and he was democratically elected by beloved people of that constituency.
“His political adversaries are sensationalising these offences to make the powers that be angry.
“There are political adversaries eyeing his post in the Government and constituency and they have tried too much and failed because he is popular.
“They want to muscle him out of Mbire, have by-elections and make sure that he will not be up for selection in 2023 elections.”
Karoro also denied allegations that he wanted to evade arrest since he was aware of the allegations since May 10 when Mugove Chidamba was arrested and appeared in court.
Mr Rubaya told the court that Phiri never resisted arrest when he was approached by detectives, but only said he questioned why they were not smartly dressed as expected of police, given that there are many cases of robberies with people using fake IDs.
He actually cooperated and assisted the police after he checked and presented himself to the police station, the lawyer said.
The State led by Mr Lancelot Mutsokoti had opposed bail saying the three were likely to evade trial.
“By the nature and gravity of the offence they are likely to flee. They do not have sufficient ties that would make them think twice before absconding. We have a strong case against the accused and it is most likely that they will be convicted.
“There are no bail conditions which will stop them from fleeing. Accused 2 (Phiri) attempted to flee. His reaction was to attempt to jump into car and speed off.” He said both Phiri and Dzimunya had said they would report at the police station but had not.
Mr Mutsokoti said the prison term the three were likely to face upon conviction might induce them to flee court.
“There was no plausible defence given to witness and meaning they simply lack defence,” he said.
Mr Mutsokoti said that Karoro was likely to interfere with witnesses considering his position in Government.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje granted each of the three $50 000 bail and ordered them to report once every week to the police.
In his ruling, Mr Mambanje said Karoro was a Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister whose conduct did not exhibit any signs of attempting to evade trial. He also said Karoro was not likely to interfere with witnesses.