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By Our Correspondent

ZIMBABWEAN cops once again blocked businessman and President Mugabe's political ally - James Makamba’s bid for freedom Wednesday when he was re-arrested immediately after a Harare magistrate ordered his release from remand prison.

Magistrate Judith Matsamba ordered that the former Telecel Zimbabwe chairman Makamba be released after she declared his arrest and continued detention illegal.

“The court rules that the arrest is illegal, as he should have been brought on a warrant,” Matsamba said in front of a packed courtroom.

Makamba is charged with 22 counts of "externalising" foreign currency.

She said the prosecution case had totally missed the point of the defence’s contention that Makamba’s detention was illegal by concentrating on bail. She said the issue was whether Makamba’s arrest was legal under new corruption laws.

Makamba, she said, should have been arrested after a warrant of arrest had been issued which the police didn’t comply with.

But soon after the prison authorities granted Makamba his freedom in front of cheering supporters who included the writer, political commentator and media mogul Ibbotson Day Mandaza, Zimbabwean police pounced.

As the jubilant party waited outside the court, Makamba’s lawyer George Chikumbirike emerged to announce a team of detectives had rearrested Makamba and used a side entrance to take him to Morris Depot Police Station.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said: “We applied for an arrest warrant which a magistrate duly issued. He will be processed through the normal police procedures. We can’t give a date when he is going to be booked, or when he will appear in court.”

In a statement Bvudzijena said an appeal had also been noted against Ms Tsamba’s judgment and police acting on that, had rearrested Makamba.

In his statement, Bvudzijena noted that Tsamba’s ruling was founded on a High Court judgment by Justice Charles Hungwe who last week ordered the release of businessman Cecil Muderede on the submissions by the defence that police needed to obtain a warrant of arrest first before effecting arrest for offences under First Schedule.

"Justice Hungwe, according to magistrate Tsamba’s judgment, clearly stated that such persons could be re-arrested on the strength of a warrant of arrest. It is on this basis that Makamba and Muderede have been arrested.

"There have, however, been a series of appearances by James Makamba in court and it has been indicated that one of the charges Makamba is facing is fraud, which is a First Schedule offence whereby police do not need a warrant to effect an arrest," said Bvudzijena.

"These issues arising from the court decisions are firstly the interpretation of what constitutes a statutory First schedule offence whereby the police may arrest an offender without a warrant.

"Where the statutory offence calls for imprisonment for a period in excess of six months with or without the option of a fine then that offence is a First Schedule offence. Makamba’s offences fall within this category hence it is a First Schedule offence.

"Secondly, we have failed as the State to timeously obtain Justice Hungwe’s judgment on Muderede’s application by the defence handed down on March 12 2004 despite several visits and inquiries by both the State counsel and the police investigating team. What has happened in such situations is that accused persons have often absconded to some countries where they have sought political asylum and it is difficult to have them extradited back to Zimbabwe to face trial," he said.

"The prevalence of such crimes has had a serious negative impact on the country’s economy and national security especially on commodities, medicinal drugs and even local currency shortages.

"The police would like to assure the public that the force is determined to ruthlessly deal with all forms of economic deviancy and we continue to appeal to the public to supply us with information as regards such crimes," Bvudzijena.

Chikumbirike said he would be filing papers at the High Court seeking his client’s release Thursday.

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