By Tendai Kamhungira
Convicted rapist and former Member of Parliament for Bikita West Munyaradzi Kereke has had three years of his 10-year sentence cut by prison officials on account of good behaviour.
The businessman has also been removed from the D Class section at Chikurubi Maximum Prison to Connemara Open Prison, which is meant for male inmates.
This emerged in a court application in which Kereke is seeking bail pending appeal based on changed political circumstances.
Kereke, a former advisor to then Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, was jailed after being convicted for raping his then 11-year-old relative, following private prosecution proceedings.
He was jailed after a long legal battle that took about six years.
Efforts to have him prosecuted through the normal court process had hit a brick wall after the State claimed there was no sufficient evidence to proceed with the matter.
He was eventually prosecuted privately after an order was given to the then Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana to issue a certificate for private prosecution.
In his latest application, Kereke told the court that the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) has, taking into account his exemplary behaviour, reclassified him from the D Class and he now qualifies to be admitted to Connemara Open Prison.
“That entitles him to occasionally be with his family. The conditions pertaining to the grant of bail have accordingly drastically altered. An applicant who is effectively entitled to serve his sentence at home is surely entitled as well to bail pending appeal,” Kereke told the court.
“The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services has further cut 40 months of the sentence he must serve through remissions. In reality, applicant has now directly served 18 months, 48 months were suspended on condition of good behaviour, a further 40 months have been interfered with on remission which leaves applicant with 38 percent of his sentence to serve. The risk of him absconding under the circumstances has been diminished to the point of extinction,” he added.
He said the new political dispensation has an effect on his political persecution.
“The court was also duty bound to consider the ‘political’ angle set up by applicant. It was consistent with the nub of his defence and was not an afterthought as wrongly concluded by the court,” he said.
But the complainant’s lawyer, Charles Warara, is challenging the application in court.
Warara, who is representing the girl’s guardian, Francis Maramwidze, told the court that Kereke was getting special treatment because of his political connections, which he said must be investigated.
He alleged the business had told the trial court that he belonged to the Lacoste faction in Zanu PF and that the persecution he was facing was as a result of that.
“He admitted to be very close to the current president of Zimbabwe (Emmerson Mnangagwa) and as such he might be using that influence in prison to continue his political protection,” Warara said.
He further said Kereke was trying to use the current political system to get out of prison, adding that the change of government cannot amount to changed circumstances in his case.
“He wants this court to be collated and be viewed as sympathetic to him because of the political changes that has taken place in Zimbabwe because he submitted that he is in prison because respondent (Maramwidze) benefited from the old and deposed government and now the current government is connected to him, he must be released,” Warara said.
Warara also said there are fears that once Kereke is released on bail he might never taste jail again by pulling political strings.
“Once he is released, he will never again be taken back because he is connected to the leadership in the government and they have openly stated in public that applicant must be helped out of prison because he was taken to prison through a political outfit notoriously called G40 which he claimed in court was responsible for his political persecution.
“Powerful people in Masvingo Province have declared that applicant is a victim of political persecution who must be assisted to come out of jail. That assistance is now manifesting in the form of reduction of his sentence by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services…,” the court was told.
Warara further told the court that there was no disclosure to the effect that he had been removed from D Class and that there was need for a prison official to provide a sworn statement confirming the process was done lawfully, adding the changes were a manipulation of the system by powerful government officials.
“Again, this is proof that the coming in of the new political dispensation benefitted the applicant. Applicant gets his sentence slashed by three years, just like that and if he has served two years as he claims, the sentence he has served is less than that which he has had remitted.
“All this needs proof and an investigation by respondent why the applicant has suddenly become such an important prisoner to the current hosts in government. It will become meaningless for the justice system to benefit rapists on the basis that a court sentence can be slashed by prison officials just like that,” Warara said.
Kereke’s lawyers from Mutandiro, Chitsanga and Chitima Attorneys have since written to the presiding judge, Davison Foroma, in a letter dated February 22, 2018, to have the bail application postponed indefinitely.
The lawyers said they would need to respond to issues of remission of sentence and Kereke’s removal from D class. Daily News