By Tarisai Machakaire
Former Cabinet minister Rugare Gumbo made a surprise appearance at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts yesterday, amid accusations that he swindled an agricultural equipment dealer $27 000 through a botched sale of a combined harvester.
The frail looking veteran nationalist, aged 76, arrived at the magistrates courts early yesterday morning in the company of two unidentified men and a police officer from Marlborough Police Station.
Gumbo was subsequently booked at the suspects’ waiting area as procedures for the opening of his court record commenced.
The former Zanu PF spokesperson could be seen seated among a few other suspected criminals who were waiting to go through similar procedure.
From there, he was referred to the senior public prosecutor’s office where his case had to be assessed to determine if it was ready to be heard before a court.
Hours after closed door interviews involving Gumbo and the complainant in the case, one Christopher Jamu, his docket was returned to Marlborough Police Station for lack of evidence linking him to the allegations.
As a result, Gumbo could not appear in court yesterday.
Jamu, a pre-owned agriculture equipment dealer at Pulgin Enterprises, is claiming that he gave Gumbo $27 000 in cash on March 15, 2017, towards the purchase of a combine harvester.
An affidavit alleged to have been deposed by Gumbo following the sale read: “I Rugare Eleck Ngidi Gumbo of 3 Teresa Close Groombridge Mt Pleasant do hereby solemnly swear and declare that I have sold my case 2388 for $27 000 to Dasapa of stand number 483 Banket voetstoots”.
Voetstoots is a legal term that refers to a sale or purchase without guarantee or warranty at the buyer’s risk.
The affidavit was commissioned and stamped by Ropafadzo Kunze, a legal practitioner, notary public and conveyancer.
Jamu further claimed that after viewing the combine harvester with his mechanics, they discovered that one of its tyres was flat and could not move the machine from Gumbo’s farm that day.
The complainant alleged that when his mechanics returned on March 20 they found the wheel detached and efforts to contact Gumbo were futile.
He later learnt that the combined harvester had been sold to another person for $30 000, prompting him to file a police report against Gumbo.
As of yesterday, there was, however, no sufficient proof to show that Gumbo and Jamu had ever engaged in such a transaction.
Jamu was not in possession of receipts or an agreement of sale for the alleged deal except for the disputed affidavit.
Gumbo is one of the country’s iconic liberation war fighters who has been in-and-out of President Robert Mugabe’s government, formed after independence in April 1980.
Born on 8 March 1940, Gumbo owns Montrose Farm, situated on the outskirts of the Midlands provincial capital of Gweru.
At the time of going to print, it was still not clear if allegations against Gumbo would stand a legal test or collapse like a deck of cards.
An outspoken politician who has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of Mugabe, Gumbo is one of the few politicians to emerge from Zanu PF who has not been tainted by corruption or other malpractices.
On the few occasions that he has been quizzed by the police or arrested, it has been on account of his political involvement.
For example, he was quizzed by the police in November 2014 over his alleged involvement with a shadowy Facebook character known as Baba Jukwa, a self-given nickname for a political online blogger who was believed to be part of dissenters in Zanu PF.
Baba Jukwa caused ripples in Zanu PF before the 2013 polls by pre-empting some secretive operations by the ruling party, including murder, assassination and corruption plots, voter intimidation and vote-rigging.
The decision to summon Gumbo to the Criminal Investigations Department Law and Order section where he was questioned for more than two hours before he was released followed the arrest of the then Sunday Mail Editor Edmund Kudzayi, who had been accused of being behind the faceless character.
In the run-up to the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections, Kudzayi had worked in the Zanu-PF information and publicity department which Gumbo superintended.
Before this incident, which died a natural death, Gumbo’s only other brushes with the law were during the fight for Zimbabwe’s independence.
He was first arrested in 1962 for taking part in the organisation of a national strike, and in 1975, on allegations of taking part in the assassination of Herbert Chitepo, then Zanu chairman.
Gumbo had been part of the bigwigs in Zanu PF until he fell out with Mugabe in 2014 for propping up former vice president Joice Mujuru’s ambitions to succeed the incumbent.
He was initially slapped with a five-year suspension in 2014 by Zanu-PF’s politburo over his role in plans to depose Mugabe, among a glut of other allegations.
A few weeks later, he was expelled from the ruling party.
Thereafter, many more politicians who were said to be aligned to Mujuru were to also suspended and expelled, among them Gumbo’s close friend, Didymus Mutasa, who has reportedly hit hard times.
Gumbo is a founding member and elder of the Zimbabwe People First party formed in 2015.
He grew up in colonial Rhodesia in Belingwe district (renamed Mberengwa after independence) district of Rhodesia in 1940.
Gumbo acquired tertiary education abroad during the early years of the nationalist struggle in the 1960s.
He attained his first degree at Boston University in the United States.
He studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then went to Canada where he studied for a Masters degree at Carlton University. He went further to study for a Masters in Education at Toronto University.
In 1962, Gumbo became actively involved in nationalist politics.
This resulted in his arrest that year after taking part in the organisation of a general strike.
He was released in 1962 and left for the US for tertiary education.
After returning from the Diaspora in 1973, Gumbo joined the liberation struggle which was popularly known as the Second Chimurenga.
He was made secretary of information in the Dare ReChimurenga which was the external wing for ZANU. He worked under the chairmanship of Chitepo.
In March 1975, he was one the people arrested and detained on allegations of taking part in the assassination of Chitepo.
He was imprisoned together with the likes of Simon Muzenda, Nathan Shamuyarira and Enos Nkala.
Soon after his release from prison, Gumbo actively took part in the organisation of the liberation struggle in the provision of military support for the guerrillas.
He was also part of the delegation that went to Britain which resulted in the Lancaster House Agreement of December 1979.
Gumbo has previously held senior positions in Mugabe’s government. He was minister of economic development from 2005 to 2007 and minister of agriculture from 2007 to 2009. Daily News