ED graft busters target judiciary, Harare magistrate in line of fire

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By Richard Chidza

THE Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office has raised the red flag over alleged under-hand dealings by a Harare magistrate and has demanded she be arrested for deliberately defeating the course of justice.

Magistrate Ruramai Chitumbura, according to the head of the SACU, Thabani Mpofu “corruptly” released suspended ZESA boss Joshua Chifamba and two others who were in the dock for prejudicing the state US$19 million where nothing was recovered.

Mpofu, in a letter to Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi, triggered an investigation into Chitumbura’s conduct.

In the letter to Hodzi, dated February 6 2019, Mpofu said Chitumbura’s decision to allow the trio to walk free “stinks.”

“Ex-ZESA Holdings chief executive officer Joshua Chifamba, Julian Masango and Thokozane Dhliwayo were arrested on corruption allegations in October 2018 and placed on remand. On the 18th of January 2019, three months after their initial appearance, the three appeared in court before magistrate Chitumbura.

“The public prosecutor applied for further remand as the docket was under investigation. The magistrate, without hearing a proper application for refusal of remand, proceeded to deny the application for further remand and released the accused persons from the obligation of attending court on remand. I have attached the report that was compiled by the prosecutor who handled the case hereto,” Mpofu wrote.

The top prosecutor added that while it is accepted that magistrates largely have discretionary powers in determining matters before them, a consideration of all circumstances surrounding this case “points to a deliberate impropriety on the part of the magistrate in the decision that she made.”

He said he found it out of character that the accused persons had been on remand for a period of less than three months, instead of the usual six months without trial date upon which a case is considered for removal from remand.

Mpofu added that on the date of their last appearance in court Chifamba and his co-accused did not present a full application for refusal of remand but Magistrate Chitumbura removed them “from remand mero motu.”

“The accused persons are facing very serious charges involving the loss to the state of USD $19 million which was paid to an external source. The funds have not been recovered.

“The facts outlined above render the magistrate’s conduct grossly irregular,” said Mpofu.

Insiders said Mnangagwa has given his seal of approval for a “clean-up” within the judiciary amid reports there is an existing cartel making it difficult for those “fighting corruption to work.”

“It has been very difficult and there are rotten apples within an otherwise very progressive judiciary. Something needs to move,” heard.