Judge attacks magistrate in fresh freedom bid by ED ally

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By Mary Taruvinga

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s top ally, Douglas Tapfuma who is accused of importing over 100 top-of-the-range luxury vehicles while using the President and his office’s name, has approached the High Court seeking bail.

Tapfuma appeared before High Court Judge, Philda Muzofa arguing that Senior Regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya erred in denying him his freedom, an argument which the Judge supported.

Muzofa however reserved her judgement on Tapfuma’s application saying parties will be informed in due course.

“I do not believe there was overwhelming evidence to deny the applicant bail. There are a lot of loopholes if we are to look at this case closely,” said the judge.

It emerged during bail submissions that superiors in President Mnangagwa’s office released clearance certificates for Tapfuma to import the vehicles.

“We all know how offices operate and in this case, a superior is authorising a clearing certificate following a request by the applicant. It shows the superiors knew it was his personal money and went on to approve. This would have been not possible if it was not done above board,” said the Judge.

Through his lawyer, Shelliton Mahuni, Tapfuma said the magistrate erred in denying him bail because the State did not submit any evidence to prove he was a flight risk and that he would interfere with witnesses.

“Investigations started in December 2018 and since then, the applicant cooperated. He would present himself each time he was called. His conduct for the past eight months is inconsistent with that of a fugitive, he would have escaped if he wanted to go,” said Mahuni.

The State insisted there was overwhelming evidence against Tapfuma because he did not deny importing the vehicles.

Tapfuma is answering to seven criminal abuse of office charges.

He is said to have imported seven personal vehicles using the President’s office name when he was still the principal director State’s Residences.

The State says investigations have established that he imported over 100 cars using the same trick and is likely to face more serious charges.

Tapfuma was the second-high profile official to be arrested after former Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira, following the appointment of a new Zimbabwe Anti-Corrupt Commission (Zacc) board chaired by Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo.

Mupfumira is still in remand prison awaiting trial for a slew of corruption charges.