Senior Court Reporter
A member of a syndicate that roams around the Registrar General’s offices in Harare, fleecing desperate passport seekers of money, was yesterday jailed for 20 months by a Harare magistrate.
Nicholas Chogugudza was initially jailed for 30 months when he appeared before Harare regional magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje charged with bribery.
However, Mr Mambanje set aside 10 months of the jail term for five years on condition that he does not commit a similar offence within that period.
Chogugudza last week admitted to soliciting for bribes on behalf of the passport office’s employees.
He was arrested along with an official from the passport offices, Prisca Moyo, who is yet to be prosecuted on the same allegations.
“I would want to tell the court the truth in front of everyone, including those who arrested me, that I committed the offence,” he said.
Chogugudza hangs around Makombe Building as a link between the public and RG’s employees facilitating the underhand dealings.
In sentencing Chogugudza, Mr Mambanje said there was need to cleanse the rot at Passport Offices, which he said had been going on for some time.
The court also said there was need to impose deterrence sentences to people like Chogugudza, who are fuelling corruption in the country.
“Courts should be seen helping in fighting corruption and they should make sure the war is won,” said Mr Mambanje.
He said fining and committing Chogugudza to perform unpaid as punishment would trivialise the offence he was facing.
The State will separately prosecute Moyo, who is in custody, on criminal abuse of office charges.
High Court judge justice Pisirayi Kwenda denied Moyo bail citing high risk of interference with witnesses, following a finding that police are facing challenges in their investigations at the passport office.
It was the court’s view that no bail condition was likely to stop communication between Moyo and his workmates.
“Accordingly, the decision a quo, dismissing the appellant’s bail application cannot be faulted because the risk of interference is high. The appeal be and is hereby dismissed.”
According to the State, on March 25, Betty Choice Madekufamba, who had applied for a passport last year, went to Makombe Building for collection her document.
She was told she was not eligible to get one as she had no permit and was not employed outside the country and was also advised that the issuance of ordinary passports had been temporarily suspended by authorities.
It is alleged that after the information, she was approached by a man who solicited US$20 for the search and production of the passport.
Madekufamba reportedly approached the Registrar’s office and a report was made and a trap was organised.
She was approached by Chogugudza who allegedly said he wanted US$20 for the passport to be retrieved and later approached Moyo who released the passport.
He took it to Madekufamba and was given the trap money leading to the duo’s arrest.