Chief Court Reporter
The Registrar General’s office is allegedly refusing to cooperate with investigators in the case involving passport processing officer, Prisca Moyo, who is facing charges of soliciting for a US$20 bribe for the quick release of a passport.
Moyo, who is suspected to be part of a syndicate fleecing desperate passport seekers at the RG’s office, was arrested along with Nicholas Chogugudza.
Chogugudza allegedly hangs around Makombe Building as a link between the public and State employees working at the passport office and allegedly facilitates the underhand dealings.
It emerged during the bail appeal hearing of Moyo at the High Court recently that the RG’s office must cooperate. The prosecution opposed bail on the grounds of the risk of interference by the RG’s office in a bid to protect Moyo.
Justice Pisirayi Kwenda dismissed Moyo’s application on that basis after finding that nothing could prevent her from interfering with her workmates. The judge also noted in his ruling that Chogugudza was not employed at the Passport Office and had no access to security items like passports.
In this case, the passport in question could only have been released by a processing officer, said Justice Kwenda, adding that it was unthinkable that the passport office would not have a record of who among their officials retrieved the passport, noting there was evidence of interference already.
“A misdirection only gives this court the leverage to consider, on the argument placed before the court of origin, whether, the appellant (Moyo) ought to have been admitted to bail,” he said. “However, in light of clear evidence of interference which can easily be inferred from the unwillingness by the appellant’s office to cooperate, I have no reason to interfere with the decision to deny the appellant bail on the basis that the appellant is likely to interfere with investigations.”
It was the court’s view that no bail condition was likely to stop communication between Moyo and his workmates.
“As is always the case when a bad practice becomes the norm, there appears to be a pact to protect each other and a mere phone call is enough to enforce the illegal pact,” he said. “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.”
Chogugudza and Moyo appeared in court last month and were denied bail by regional magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje on bribery charges.
Moyo has a separate charge of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer. According to the State, on March 25 one Betty Choice Madekufamba who had applied for a passport last year, went to Makombe Building for collection. She was told she was not eligible to get one as she had no permit and was not employed outside the country. Madekufamba was also advised that the issuance of ordinary passports had been temporarily suspended by authorities.
It is alleged 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 organised. Reports are that she was approached by Chogugudza who allegedly said he wanted US$20 for the passport to be retrieved. He reportedly approached Moyo and the passport was retrieved.
He took it to Madekufamba and was given the trap money leading to the duo’s arrest.