By Fidelis Munyoro
Former Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba yesterday got a reprieve after the High Court extended his bail until the Supreme Court decides on his fresh appeal.
Chikumba and his co-accused, Grace Pfumbidzayi, the airline’s former corporate secretary, had their appeals against both conviction and seven-year jail terms for criminal abuse of office thrown out by the High Court two weeks ago.
He launched an appeal to the Supreme Court and sought an extension of bail until the determination of the appeal by the superior court.
Justice Hlekani Mwayera yesterday accepted Chikumba’s application, saying the former Airzim boss’ prospects of success on appeal were high.
“The applicant has an arguable case on appeal,” said Justice Mwayera, adding, “There might be prospects of success on appeal.”
This comes in the wake of the High Court finding that Chikumba could have been wrongly convicted because the charge of criminal abuse of duty was only applicable to public officers as defined in the country’s statutes, yet Airzim was a private entity.
The ruling means Chikumba, who is seeking to overturn the High Court decision, will remain out of custody on $2 000 bail coupled with stringent conditions.
The State represented by Mr Editor Mawuto had strenuously opposed bail, but later made concessions after Justice Mwayera demonstrated that the prosecution’s arguments were too fragile and untenable.
Justice Mwayera said the balance of convenience was ostensibly tilted in favour of Chikumba.
Mr Mawuto agreed with Justice Mwayera’s assertion that if an appeal was invalid, the best way was to have it struck off the roll and that there was nothing amiss in appealing against a finding of fact by a trial magistrate at the High Court.
Justice Edith Mushore earlier this month dismissed the appeals by Chikumba and Pfumbidzayi, saying there was no valid appeal before the court, as the grounds of appeal were not clear and specific.
Advocate Thabani Mpofu assisted by Adv Kith Kachambwa and instructed by Mr Admire Rubaya and Mr Oliver Marwa of Rubaya and Chatambudza Legal Practitioners, argued the matter.
Following Justice Mushore’s ruling, Adv Mpofu accused the higher court of dismissing the duo’s appeal without hearing the argument on merits.
In the appeal to the Supreme Court, Adv Mpofu assaulted the entire judgment, incriminating the High Court of losing its senses by holding that his client, Chikumba, could be barred in his own appeal and in making an outrageous costs award in a criminal appeal without laying a basis for making such an award.
He prayed for the superior court to set aside the High Court decision and allow Chikumba’s appeal and possibly order for the matter to be tabled again before the High Court for hearing on the substance before a different judge.
Chikumba and Pfumbidzayi were last year convicted and jailed seven years each for criminal abuse of duty under the Criminal Law (Codification Reform) Act. The Herald