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Chombo fights to stay out of prison

By Tendai Kamhungira

Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo has launched a spirited bid to avoid doing jail time by filing a Supreme Court appeal against the 90-day jail term that was imposed on him this week by the High Court, after he was found guilty of contempt of court for failing to comply with an order to facilitate the release of $78 000 confiscated from a Mutare businessman.

Ignatius Chombo
Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo

Police, who are answerable to Chombo, seized the cash following Tendai Blessing Mangwiro’s arrest in 2008 on theft charges, with the cops failing to return the money which was held as an exhibit, following his subsequent acquittal in 2012.

“It is declared that the respondent (Chombo) is guilty of contempt of the court order of this honourable court granted under case number HC 4261/16 in that: He has wilfully disregarded the court orders in case number HC4766/13 and HC 4261/16 and refused to comply with them and further preventing the applicant (Mangwiro) from enjoying his right as established in the court.

“The respondent (Chombo) is sentenced to 90 days imprisonment with labour until full compliance by the respondent.

“The term of imprisonment shall be wholly suspended on condition that the respondent fully complies with the court orders . . . ,” High Court judge Amy Tsanga ruled earlier this week.

But Chombo has now filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, arguing that the High Court erred by convicting and slapping him with the jail term.

“The learned judge in the court a quo grossly misdirected herself in finding appellant guilty of contempt of court and sentencing him to a term of imprisonment on the basis of a challenged return of service filed by the Sheriff to the effect that appellant was duly served with the application for contempt, and on the further basis that appellant was barred from making submissions in facie curiae that he was not duly served,” he said in his appeal.

Meanwhile, Mangwiro’s lawyers Mahuni and Mutatu were also pulling out all the stops yesterday to have Chombo imprisoned, approaching the registrar of the High Court seeking to have court order effected.

In a letter, the lawyers argued that Chombo’s appeal did not suspend the execution of the order, considering that he had not sought an order granting him a stay of execution.

“We, Mahuni and Mutatu Attorneys confirm that we have instructed the Sheriff, Harare to forthwith arrest, detain and lodge to prison the respondent (Chombo) …,” they argued.

The Attorney-General (AG), Prince Machaya, was said to be busy yesterday and had not responded to a Daily News enquiry by the time the newspaper went to print, to clarify if indeed Chombo had not sought a stay of execution order before appealing to the Supreme Court.

Although Chombo had, through the AG’s office, written an affidavit claiming that he had not been personally served with the application, further demanding that the matter be postponed this was rejected by the High Court, which noted that the minister had long been aware of the court application.

This contempt of court application came after Mangwiro also won another High Court order, demanding Chombo to facilitate the release of another Z$46 135 000 000, which is equivalent to US$1,5 million which was also confiscated from him in 2008.

“The respondent (Chombo) is ordered and directed to comply with statutory duty cast upon him in terms of Section 5 (2) of the State Liabilities Act (Chapter 8:14) that is to cause to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sums of money awarded to applicant (Mangwiro) by the order of this honourable court,” High Court judge Owen Tagu said separately.

Tagu further ordered Chombo to comply with the order within 14 days, failure of which he would also be declared to be in contempt of the court order, in addition to being also slapped with the costs of the suit. Daily News