Former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who is facing a plethora of charges, ranging from fraud, criminal abuse of office and corruption, was yesterday released on $5 000 bail by High Court judge Justice Edith Mushore.
BY CHARLES LAITON
As part of his stringent bail conditions, Chombo was ordered to surrender his passport, report at Marlborough Police Station three times a day, not to visit the Local Government ministry and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe offices and not to interfere with State witnesses.
Chombo was arrested mid-last month with former Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga during a militarised operation by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, where they claimed to be dealing with criminals around former President Robert Mugabe.
A major issue that arose during Chombo and Chipanga’s bail applications was the manner in which they were arrested, with their lawyer Lovemore Madhuku arguing the politicians’ right to be brought before the court within 48 hours had been violated. Madhuku lamented that the magistrate, who entertained his clients’ initial bail hearing, had “lost an opportunity to tell the world that Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy”.
“Denial of bail was grossly irregular,” he said.
In his submissions, Madhuku said his client was a good candidate for bail, but had simply suffered “mob rule”, which influenced the magistrate’s decision not to grant him his freedom.
Madhuku further said while Chombo’s case was being compared to that of human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, who was at one point abducted by State security agents and failed to be taken to court in time, his client’s matter was peculiar in that the State was denying involvement and knowledge of who had taken Chombo hostage.
“In this particular case the appellant [Chombo] was not beaten, as was the case with Mukoko, but the State is not telling us who had taken him hostage before he appeared at his residence where he was eventually arrested by police.
“What we are being told is that those that had captured him were asking him several questions about ill-running this country … the Mukoko modus of operation was used, where one would be dropped at his residence and later picked by police …,” he said.
Justice Mushore asked State representative Edmore Nyazamba to explain Chombo’s whereabouts before surfacing at his residence and he said: “His whereabouts were not known, perhaps he had gone into hiding, but it’s just his story that he had been abducted.”
The judge further asked if the police later established where Chombo had been held, to which Nyazamba replied: “They were unable to find out because the driver of the vehicle that brought him home simply asked the officers to move away, dropped him off and left.”
Earlier, Chipanga was released by the same court on $500 bail and ordered to report twice every day at Borrowdale Police Station, to surrender his passport and not to interfere with witnesses.