FORMER Finance minister Ignatius Chombo will spend the weekend in jail after he was charged for alleged corrupt deals, some cases dating as far back as 1997.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Chombo, who was arrested by the army on November 14 when former president Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest, appeared at the Harare magistrates court alongside Zanu PF youth league leaders Kudzanai Chipanga and Innocent Hamandishe.
The former Zanu PF secretary for administration and Chipanga gave a chilling account of how they were seized by the soldiers from their Harare homes and detained for almost a week.
However, their bid for freedom on condition that they were over-detained hit a snag as the presiding magistrates dismissed their applications to be placed off remand.
Chombo, who was facing three counts dating as far back as 20 years ago, appeared before magistrate Elisha Singalo, who said he would look at his bail application on Monday.
In the first count, Chombo was accused of fraudulently forging documents that included a lease to acquire Subdivisions “K” Portion of Nthaba portion of Glen Lorne from City of Harare where he is said to have signed and manufactured a fraudulent lease agreement on January 1 1997. City of Harare is said to have been prejudiced of $900 000.
On the second count, which is criminal abuse of duty by a public officer, Chombo is accused of having received an application from City of Harare for a change of use for an open space in Helensvale into a residential area in September 2006.
He allegedly used his ministerial power as the Local Government minister to allocate it to a company he co-owns, called Harvest –Net Enterprises.
The property is worth $2 700 000.
On the third count, Chombo is accused of defrauding the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe through the Crops and Livestock Support Facility where he received $414 billion in Zimbabwean dollars.
The court said Chombo did not use the money for the intended purpose, which was buying capital equipment that included a 30 tonne lorry, 30 tonne truck and combine harvester, among others.
He is said to have issued some cheques mainly through CBZ Bank for other purposes.
Meanwhile, Chipanga faced charges of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state as defined in Section 31 (a) (iii) of the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23 or alternatively causing disaffection among the police force or defence forces as defined in section 30 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The charges arose from a press conference where he accused Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga of stealing money realised from diamond mining in Marange.
The two were represented by Lovemore Madhuku.
Chombo, who wanted to testify on camera chronicled how he was allegedly “abducted from his house by soldiers” and taken to an unknown destination where they drove for an hour.
The former minister said he was blindfolded the entire time and kept in solitary confinement.
He said the armed soldiers broke into his house and ordered him, his wife and maid, who had sought refuge in a bathroom, to lie down on their stomachs.
Chombo alleged the soldiers, who were covering their faces, appeared to be in a hurry, blindfolded him and handcuffed him from the back and took him out of the house through a window.
He was taken into a waiting lorry where three armed men sat on him as he lay by the side.
He said they drove for almost an hour before he was taken into solitary confinement to a place he still doesn’t know.
Chombo was taken back to his house last Wednesday where police were waiting for him.
Chipanga, who appeared before magistrate Josephine Sande, said after receiving a phone call from former Zanu PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere informing him that armed men were on the prowl and might get to his place, he rushed to Borrowdale Police to seek refuge.
Initially, police accommodated him as he was earlier on assigned an armed officer from the protection unit to guard him during the night before receiving the call from Kasukuwere.
He said when Kasukuwere opted to go to former president Robert Mugabe’s house, he went to Borrowdale Police Station where after a while, armed men came to fish him out. They blindfolded him and threw him in a truck together with his wife.
Chipanga said he was taken to an unknown place where they drove for almost 20 minutes. He claimed he was often assaulted but stayed in solitary confinement until he was taken back to his house where police immediately arrested him.
Madhuku, citing a Supreme Court ruling on Jestina Mukoko’s illegal detention by government agents, said his clients were in unlawful detention for more than a week, hence they deserved to be released because the allowed 48-hour detention period had lapsed.
Despite putting a spirited fight, Madhuku’s quest to have his clients released fell apart as both magistrates dismissed the claim that they were over-detained.
They said they cannot take as a fact that the detention was sanctioned by the law enforcers.