By Mary Taruvinga
FORMER Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Augustine Chihuri has vehemently opposed a High Court order for his properties to be forfeited arguing it is unconstitutional.
He argued that he acquired his vast wealth legally and legitimately since he was gainfully employed.
He said it was naïve for the State to suggest he obtained the assets now targeted for forfeiture from corruption.
He also raised complaints against former Prosecutor General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi, saying he was driven by hate.
The former police boss, currently exiled in Malawi following the 2017 coup that toppled the late former President Robert Mugabe, is accused of syphoning state funds amounting US$32 million.
The trial in the matter commenced before High Court judge, Pisirayi Kwenda and Chihuri is represented by Addington Chinake.
Chinake said affidavits before the court against his client were tendered by officers who were not in the service at the time the offence as allegedly committed.
“They actually have no personal knowledge,” he said.
“The current commissioner general Matanga himself is the one who dealt with the first applicant (Chihuri). He has not furnished the court with any allegations the court cannot go by hearsay,” submitted Chinake.
The lawyer added: “The court doesn’t balance the interests of the applicants in assets that they say were illegitimately acquired…they cannot be mass forfeiture which is essentially what this case is about.”
“It’s about mass forfeiture, unconnected, unproven just following mere allegations. There has been no regards to the working history and businesses of the applicant. The applicant is seeking its discharge principally on the basis that it’s an unconstitutional order where there was no right to be heard right to the administrative of justice.”
Chinake said Chihuri has always been gainfully employed, having rose through the ranks in the police force before graduating into senior service following his contribution in the liberation struggle.
He said he is not a dubious character.
“He is not a dubious character who suddenly woke up to amass such wealth. It’s painful for example that the applicant being a beneficiary of the land reform programme was also a farmer producing maize which he sold to GMB.”
“However, after the November 2017 events his maize would not be accepted by the state so the applicant cannot be said to have obtained money or generated money through improper or elicit means when in fact he has chronicled before this court full details of how he was engaged in banana farming, maize farming which was sold for profit,” he said.
Chinake said Chihuri has shown good cause by showing defects of an unconstitutional nature.
He went on to attack Hodzi.
“I respectfully submit that the PG’s approach to this matter demonstrates the hazard that exists in allowing the public officials unfettered power to simply point at a person and ask you to explain. The conduct of the PG in my own submission is irrational and it is unconstitutional,” he said.
“The PG actually records that these vehicles were registered with the ZRP but they were now transferred to the applicant’s name and he is now being asked to explain. This points to the existence of some ulterior motive,” submitted Chinake.
“When you have such power, you have to exercise such power judiciously, fairly and you should give any such person due notice of what you intend to do and affording them opportunity to respond and an opportunity to be heard and where they see reason to take action they must give reasons for doing that. This case is a good example where the PG’s office did not satisfy these requirements and for that reason this unexplained wealth order was obtained improperly and in an unconstitutional manner and must be set aside.”
The hearing continues on March 29 with the state responding to Chihuri arguments.