By Leopold Munhende/Idah Mhetu
TOURISM Minister Priscah Mupfumira who was arrested and charged with criminal abuse of office early this week will have to endure three weeks in prison, at least for now.
Mupfumira wore a brave face as Acting Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi read out his ruling on her bid for freedom at the Harare Magistrates Court on Saturday.
“The court is convinced that the state has indeed established ground and facts which constitute reasonable suspicion that the accused may have committed the offences preferred against her.
“The court therefore has no hesitation to find that all the requirements for the production of the Prosecutor General’s Certificate have been met,” said Mutevedzi.
“The effect of that certificate is to oust this court and every other court’s jurisdiction in determining issues to do with the accused person’s ambition to bail during the lifespan of that certificate. I therefore order the detention of the accused person for 21 days as prayed for in the PG’s certificate.”
Mutevedzi added: “The State is convinced that accused may have committed the offences and played a central role in the transaction of money.”
The certificate was produced in terms of Section 32(3)(b) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which states that if the Prosecutor General believes that a matter is complex and that there is difficulty in acquiring evidence relating to an offence or that there is likelihood that the accused may conceal or destroy evidence and if a magistrate is satisfied, will remand an accused in custody for 21 days.
Calm before the storm….Mupfumira being escorted into the Harare Magistrate’s Courts
Mupfumira became the first high profile politician and sitting Cabinet Minister to be arrested since the reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the appointment of High Court Judge Loice Matanda-Moyo.
The Tourism Minister faces seven counts of criminal abuse of office triggered by a forensic audit report by Auditor General Mildred Chiri on the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) from which some $95 million was reportedly siphoned on her “verbal orders.”
Mupfumira is denying all charges and her lawyer Charles Chinyama on Friday argued the State has a weak case and relying on unsubstantiated claims that she gave verbal orders to the board on several occasions.
Chinyama refused to comment after court proceedings.
“I have no authority to talk to the media. I have been barred,” he said.
Current Public Service Minister Sekai Nzenza has come under fire for refusing to make the audit report public claiming she is still studying it.
Nzenza has received support from Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi who told angry MPs early this week that the Executive had a right to first understand the report before tabling it in the National Assembly.
However, as fate would have it, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission pounced on Mupfumira.
Parts of the report have now become public given the form major swathes of the charges against Mupfumira.