Chombo seeks permanent stay of prosecution citing coup arrest

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By Mary Taruvinga

EMBATTLED former finance minister Ignatius Chombo, has taken his freedom battle to Constitutional  Court two years after his arrest and placement on remand arguing the State has no authority to prosecute him.

Chombo who has several criminal charges following him, on Thursday sought permanent stay of proceedings against him arguing his rights were violated when he was arrested between November 15 and 23 2017 when he was abducted by suspected State agents.

Through his lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, the former Zanu PF secretary for administration filed the application saying proceeding to trial would undermine the administration of justice.

“The victim is entitled to a remedy because where there is violation of rights there should be a remedy and the State should be liable to the damages,” said Madhuku.

“The authorities, the High Court relied on were not binding and that’s a serious misdirection. Here now we seek a remedy for permanent stay because there is no sufficient connection between the torture he endured and the charges he is now facing,” said Madhuku.

He added: “These were members of the army who terrorised the applicant and it was a military operation. The applicant has a right not to be subjected to torture .

“The rights of citizens should be protected. We cannot say there will never be repetition of what happened in November 2017 but if it happens again citizens should be protected. The court should send a clear message that Zimbabwe does not tolerate such behaviour.”

The case was heard by Justices Ben Hlatswayo, Chinembiri Bhunu and Tendai Uchena.

In response, Edmore Makoto who was representing the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Prosecutor General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi opposed the application saying the State was not even aware who abducted Chombo.

“The respondents are not aware of who exactly violated the rights of the appellant,” Makoto said.

“The court aquo cannot be faulted for dismissing the application. If there were violations as alluded, his remedies lie elsewhere other than in the permanent stay of prosecution in casu.”

The ruling on the matter was reserved indefinitely.

On his initial court appearance Chombo told court of his harrowing experiences at the hands of suspected State security during a period in which he was placed in solitary confinement, glued to one seat while he was blindfolded for a good seven days.

He said he could not see the faces of his abductors who were dressed in camouflage.

Chombo was arrested as soon as his suspected abductors dropped him at his Golden Stairs home in Harare before he was placed on remand for the cases he is now answering to.

He was brought to court in leg irons as well as handcuffs.

High Court Judge, Justice Edith Mushore said the matter was peculiar in that the State was denying involvement and knowledge of who had taken Chombo hostage when she granted him bail.

Mushore ruled it was clear the State was accountable as it was not in dispute that his abductors were dressed in camouflage.

Chombo was the first then serving Minister to be arrested during a military operation code named Operation Restore Legacy that brought to an abrupt end then President Robert Mugabe’s rule in 2017.

He is also being accused of wearing Zanu PF party regalia without authority.

Chombo also stands trial for contravening sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In this case he is accused of prejudicing Eddie Pfugari Properties of more than $200 million in a botched land deal.

He is also accused of defrauding businessman, Chargan Vithal Rama, of $500 000 in company share ownership transfer deal.