Top magistrate jailed 3 years for corruption

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

A PROVINCIAL magistrate based at Karoi, who removed three suspects from remand, has been convicted and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Felix Chauromwe’s trial at Chinhoyi Court Complex came to a close this Thursday and was convicted on a criminal abuse of office charge as defined in Section 174(1)(a) of the Criminal Law Act, Chapter 9:23.

He was subsequently sentenced to three years imprisonment before one year was conditionally suspended for five years.

This means Chauromwe will effectively serve two years behind bars.

The complainant was the State, represented by Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) investigation officer, Timothy Guta.

Prosecutors Whisper Mabhaudhi and Review Nikisi averred that on July, 22 last year, Alois Togarepi, Obvious Vheremu and Mussa Anesi, who were facing a charge of criminal abuse of office, appeared on routine remand before Chauromwe.

The trio’s lawyer indicated that he wanted to make an application for further refusal of remand, premised on the fact that his clients had not been served with State papers and their rights to liberty were infringed.

Chauromwe allowed the application for further refusal of remand to be made contrary to the Proactive Direction 6 of 2021, issued by Chief Justice Luke Malaba.

By doing so, he contravened Section 6 of 2021 meant to govern the court’s operations, filing of pleadings and processes and handling of cases before the courts during the Level Four Covid-19 national lockdown, with effect from July 22, 2021.

The decree meant that all pending criminal cases remanded to dates within the period July 22-27, were rolled over and remanded to July 27-30.

Prosecutor Pazvichaenda Munakira opposed the application due to the fact that they were under lockdown, which made it difficult for ZACC officers to bring the dockets to court, and furnish the trio with State papers.

He said the matter should be further remanded until the situation normalised.

On July 23, Chauromwe, well aware of the provisions of Practice Direction Number 6 of 2021, and in particular paragraph 15, ruled that the rights of the trio were being infringed.

The court heard this was despite the fact that the trio had only been arrested on May 13, 2021, and that this was their third remand appearance.

It was also despite the fact that the Chinhoyi and Karoi areas had been declared Covid-19 hotspots and were placed under localised lockdown.

Therefore, investigating officers from Harare, could not take completed dockets to Karoi.

The ruling resulted in the removal of the trio on remand.

Chauromwe, according to the State, acted contrary to his duties as a public officer by showing favour to the trio when he entertained the application of refusal of further remand.