Magistrate chides Chombo for ‘delaying’ tactics on graft trial

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By Mary Taruvinga

HARARE magistrate, Esthere Chivasa on Wednesday scolded embattled former cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo whom he accused of unnecessarily buying time to avoid prosecution.

The magistrate went on to dismiss Chombo’s application in which he was seeking release of his passport after the Supreme Court trashed his request for the same document.

Chombo is facing several criminal offences and is yet to stand trial.

He asked for an order granting the release of his passport after it was seized by suspected State agents recently but every effort has been fruitless.

Chivasa said she could not order the release of the passport because the period Chombo wanted to use it has already lapsed and the ex-minister is expected back in court on September 4 for trial.

“It is not in dispute that the applicant was diagnosed with cancer. But firstly, the applicant is relying on a document which is dated February 2019, we are now in July and that on its own presents a challenge in that it is the document that was relied upon in the previous application. Legally, there is no change in circumstances,” she said.

“The applicant seems to assume that the court should simply allow him to have his passport released because he has cancer,” said the magistrate.

Chivasa said although the passport was seized from him, Chombo should have presented the court with latest review documents.

She said she could be bound by a February document considering the circumstances of the matter.

Chombo had requested the release of his passport through his lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku saying he still has pending treatment sessions.

But the magistrate said his application was vague with regard to dates before she accused him of using tactics to buy time.

“We do not know how the three weeks sought were arrived at. The applicant has succeeded, legally that is, to make it impossible for the state to try him. He is perfectly entitled to do so. The applicant therefore authored his delay in bringing him to trial. As such, he cannot hide before a problem of his own making,” said Chivasa.

The magistrate went on to protect the State saying it must not be held accountable for Chombo’s trial delays.

The magistrate also said State’s fears that Chombo is likely to abscond cannot be treated lightly.

“The State placed before this court statistics that indulgence has been abused lately by former senior government officials facing serious allegations.

“In a short space of time, former government ministers have been granted indulgence and had their passport temporarily released to them and have abused it.

“While their reasons for not attending court are not known, this court cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that there is a trend to abuse the indulgence,” she said, however making it clear that she is not punishing Chombo for other people’s sins.