More Jail Nightmare For Mnangagwa Aide As Appeal Dismissed

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By Mary Taruvinga

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s former top aide, Douglas Tapfuma will continue languishing in jail after his appeal against both conviction and sentence was dismissed by the High Court.

Tapfuma is serving six years imprisonment after he was convicted on three counts of criminal abuse of duty by Harare magistrate Esthere Chivasa last year.

He appealed against both conviction and sentence arguing the magistrate erred in failing to establish that his moral blameworthiness was very low.

Tapfuma said evidence by the state in fact exonerated him but the magistrate failed to see that.

Among other reasons, Tapfuma also said the magistrate erred in finding out that he made misrepresentation.

He said community service in his case was appropriate instead of custodial sentence.

But judges of appeal, Benjamin Chikowero and Pisirayi Kwenda ruled the magistrate did a perfect job.

“The correct approach to sentence in corruption cases is that imprisonment is called for unless if there are cogent reasons,” said the judges.

“Having found no such cogent reasons, I consider that the magistrate misdirected himself in imposing a custodial sentence. The crime of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer is a serious one, attracting imprisonment of a severe sentence.”

Chikowero added, “The sentence imposed is neither vitiated by any irregularity nor misdirection. It is not disturbingly inappropriate. It is not shocking.

“Using our review powers, we acquit the appellant on the three alternative counts. The court a quo having properly convicted on the three main counts refrained from passing a verdict on the alternative counts. That is a misdirection. In the result, there being no merit in the appeal against both conviction and sentence; appeal is dismissed in its entirety.”

Tapfuma was a former principal director of state residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet.

He was found guilty of three counts after a full trial.

Two years of his sentence were suspended on condition of good behaviour, leaving him to serve four years effective.

In her judgment magistrate, Chivasa said Tapfuma’s actions were purposeful and well-calculated knowing that no one would scrutinise his acts considering the high office he was holding.

“The manner by which the accused committed the offence was deliberate and well calculated. He abused the highest office and his offence was difficult to detect,” said Chivasa.

Tapfuma was found guilty of importing eight cars for personal use by using the President’s name and evading paying import duty in the process.

The eight vehicles were forfeited to the State.

Chivasa said Tapfuma’s defence was riddled with irregularities which were irrelevant to the charges he was facing.

Tapfuma had denied all the charges saying the accusations against him were fabricated by people who were fighting him.

He told the court during cross examination that his then superior, Ray Ndhlukula was unhappy with his promotion as a director in the office of the then Vice President Mnangagwa in 2014.

He said Ndhlukula wanted to second his own staff to the Vice President’s office.

He also told the court in his defence that he was following a policy which was already in existence, which allowed him to import cars when he assumed the office.