Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi, who is in trouble for donating State property, yesterday unsuccessfully pleaded with the magistrates’ court to give him back his passport as he intends to travel abroad. The State, which was represented by Mr Michael Reza, opposed the application for the release of the passport, saying Mzembi was a flight risk.
“Your Worship, the State has initially consented to the relaxation of the bail conditions of the accused and the release of his passport because certain information of a criminal nature had not been brought to the authorities,” he said.
“Now, certain information has since been brought to light which link the accused to a substantial amount of money. The State official who made the consent earlier was not aware of the information. The evidence is of the nature that if the accused is granted his passport he will evade and not stand trial.
“Section 117 of the Criminal Evidence Act will be contravened if the accused is granted his passport. He will never be found in this jurisdiction, therefore, the State is of the view that the accused person should not be granted his passport.”
Through his lawyer, Mr Job Sikhala, Mzembi argued that the alleged criminal information was not before the court.
“Your worship, the State submitted that the applicant cannot have his passport because there is a pending matter based on the said information that the State said has received,” said Mr Sikhala.
“However, the court cannot be persuaded to make decisions on matters that are not before it. How can the applicant be punished on a matter that is not even in the court? The State must produce evidence to the so-called criminal information linked to the applicant and not just throw accusations.”
Mr Sikhala said Mzembi had never attempted to flee the country.
“The applicant has been subject of unfair media coverage, with some headlines brutal that the applicant could have decided to run away, but he never moved an inch,” he said. “He remained at his home.
“Even during the time when the military carried the Operation Restore Legacy on November 15, he did not run away. There is no evidence to him being a flight risk. It is, therefore, the duty of the court to protect every citizen.”
Harare magistrate Ms Rumbidzai Mugwagwa will make a ruling on February 16. Mzembi stands accused of obtaining $2 million from Treasury when he was Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister to buy 40 LED PVA screens in 2010.
The money was paid to suppliers Shanghai Linso Digital Technology Company and the screens were recorded in the ministry’s asset register upon delivery.