Zimbabwe minister fights arrest

July 27, 2017
| Report Focus News

HARARE – Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo has filed an urgent chamber application seeking to stop his arrest on contempt of court charges after he failed to comply with an order directing him to facilitate the release of funds belonging to Mutare businessman, Tendai Blessing Mangwiro.

In the application, Chombo cites the Sheriff for Zimbabwe, Mangwiro and his lawyers, Shelliton Mahuni and Valentine Mutatu, as respondents.

Chombo was forced to make the application after Mangwiro instigated arrest proceedings against him.

Mangwiro is seeking to recover over $1,5 million confiscated by the police in 2008, following his arrest on theft charges and his subsequent acquittal in 2012.

The Sheriff failed to arrest Chombo last week after he was protected by security personnel at Zanu PF headquarters where he was attending the party’s politburo meeting.

This incident has also prompted Mangwiro to appeal to the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Augustine Chihuri and the director general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Happyton Bonyongwe for assistance.

In an affidavit deposed on his behalf by Fortune Chimbaru from the Attorney General (AG)’s office, Chombo is seeking an order stopping Mangwiro from pursuing the arrest proceedings.

“The applicant (Chombo) is…approaching this honourable court on an urgent basis seeking the interim relief of an interdict against first respondent (Sheriff) who has been instructed by second (Mangwiro), third (Mahuni) and fourth (Mutatu) respondents to arrest him and lodge him to prison in terms of an order issued by this honourable court,” Chimbaru said.

She told the court that while in the company of the AG, Prince Machaya, she had called the Sheriff last Friday to enquire if he had been instructed to arrest Chombo and lodge him to prison. The Sheriff confirmed the developments, adding that he had even unsuccessfully attempted to arrest Chombo last week.

Machaya later asked the Sheriff on why he wanted to take Chombo to prison, arguing that the minister had complied with the court order in terms of Section 5 (2) of the State Liabilities Act.

“First respondent did not give any undertaking or commitment that he would suspend efforts to arrest the applicant on the basis of the proof of compliance which the Attorney General said had been furnished to his office,” Chimbaru said, adding that this is the reason Chombo has approached the court on an urgent basis.

Chimbaru said Chombo’s personal liberty is at stake, in circumstances where “he feels his arrest would be both wrongful and unlawful”.

According to Chimbaru, Chombo wrote a letter in November last year to the Finance ministry demanding payment, adding that this was in compliance with his statutory obligations.

The move to arrest Chombo comes after he was last year slapped with a 90-day prison term by High Court judge Amy Tsanga.

He had been found guilty of contempt of court for failing to comply with an order seeking him to facilitate the release of a further $78 900 confiscated from Mangwiro.

Chombo appealed against the court ruling at the Supreme Court but later withdrew the appeal, which became the basis for Mangwiro’s move to have him arrested until he complies with the order.

However, Chimbaru, in the latest urgent chamber application, argued that the withdrawal of the appeal did not provide any basis for Mangwiro to institute arrest proceedings.

“In the circumstances I pray that an interdict be issued to stop first respondent from taking any further steps to cause the arrest and lodging of applicant in prison pending a final determination of whether or not the letters sent by applicant and his ministry to the Finance Ministry constitute sufficient compliance by him of his obligations as a nominal defendant or respondent in terms of Section (5) 2 of the State Liabilities Act,” Chimbaru said.

The Sheriff, Mangwiro and his lawyers are yet to respond to the application.

Mangwiro has been in a prolonged legal battle with the police to recover his money, which also resulted in him seeking an order for the court to strike off the State Liabilities Act from the country’s statutes.

The striking off of this Act will allow owed litigants to attach government property.

High Court judge Edith Mushore has since ruled that the Act is unconstitutional but had erroneously referred the matter to the Constitutional Court for confirmation of the order, resulting in the matter being struck off by the highest court in the land on procedural basis.