Jailed Chitungwiza chamber secretary freedom bid hits a snag

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By Court Reporter

 THE High Court has dismissed bail pending appeal application by former Chitungwiza chamber secretary, Priscila Vengesai who is currently serving jail time following conviction for attempting to bribe a judge.

Vengesai was sentenced to two years imprisonment last year by Harare regional magistrate Hosiah Mujaya.

The sentence was then reduced to 15 months after 9 months were suspended on conditions of good behavior.

Vengesai then filed for bail pending appeal hearing noting that she was likely to succeed on appeal.

High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero dismissed her application reminding her that the lower court had been lenient with her.

“There is no substance in all the grounds of appeal. The appeal is hopeless.

“33 years ago, this Court said: ‘bribery and corruption are regarded with thorough disapproval since they undermine the fabric and orderly function of the country’s institutions. In such cases the proper punishment should be imprisonment unless there are circumstances which indicate that this would be inappropriate’.

“There appears to me to be no scope for arguing that the sentence is so harsh and excessive as to induce a sense of shock. Rather, the applicant seems to have been fortunate to escape with a somewhat lenient sentence.

“I do not agree that there is any prospect of successfully arguing that undue emphasis was hard to deter at the expense of the appellant’s status as a female first offender and single mother with two children under her care,” said the judge.

The judge said her case was likely to be heard soon as such she should be patient.

“There is no likelihood of a lengthy delay before the appeal is heard, unless the applicant herself endeavours to occasion such a state of affairs. There is no backlog of criminal appeal cases in the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court at Harare. The record of the proceedings held before the trial court has been transcribed.

“All she needs to do is to file heads of argument. If she does so this month the likelihood is that the appeal will be set down and determined this term. Accordingly, the second factor in an application such as this, just like the one preceding it, works against the applicant.”

Vengesai once made headlines after approaching the courts challenging the constitutionality of the practice of paying lobola.

Last year, it was proved that Vengesai tried to bribe High Court judge Justice Felistus Chatukuta.

She had presided over a case involving Avondale Holdings (Pvt) Ltd and TM Supermarkets (Pvt) Ltd and ruled in favour of Avondale Holdings.

Vengesai then approached Chatukuta in her chambers and offered her cash saying it was a token of appreciation from Avondale Holdings (Pvt) Ltd.

The High Court Judge is said to have turned the offer down.

Chatukuta recorded the conversation before reporting the matter to the police who charged Vengesai with bribery before it was taken to the magistrate’s court for vetting and setting a trial date.

Vengesai, who is out of custody, then got information that Prosecutor Michael Reza was the one dealing with her case.

She then approached Reza in his office and again offered him US$1,000 for him to decline prosecution, the court heard.

As she was offering the money, Reza started recording the conversation before alerting the police who rushed to his office and caught Vengesai red handed, handing over the cash to him.