By Tendai Rupapa
A bid by former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo to get his passport back to enable him to travel abroad, yesterday hit a snag after the court dismissed the application.
Chombo, who is facing criminal abuse of office and fraud charges, surrendered his passport to the clerk of court as part of his bail conditions following his arrest.
However, he recently made an application for the temporary release of his passport through one of his many records on the basis that he needed to travel to South Africa for medical attention.
The application was granted and the passport was released.
Chombo last week approached the court arguing that his passport was taken from him by an unknown person at the airport and found its way back to the clerk of court, forcing him to abort the journey.
Through his lawyers, Professor Lovemore Madhuku and Tungamirai Muganhiri, Chombo made an application for “mandamus” to compel the clerk of court to release the said passport as per the court order.
The lawyers wanted magistrate Mr Lazini Ncube to order the clerk of court to release the passport since they had no legal basis to continue holding it against a court order.
Representing the State, Mr Michael Reza opposed the application on the basis that the prosecutor who consented to the application for release of the passport did so without due diligence.
He said Chombo’s passport could not have been released if the prosecutor who presided over the matter had availed certain evidence to the court.
He added that the prosecutor did not advise the court that Chombo’s application for review at the High Court had been dismissed and also that the passport was connected to other charges he is facing.
Mr Reza made reference to other high profile cases whereby accused persons were given back their passports on the pretext of seeking medical attention and never returned for trial.
He then made a counter application to have the order revoked and to bar Chombo from making a similar application of the release of the passport before completion of the matter.
In response to the State’s application, Mr Ncube said only the High Court could make the decision.
“The order that the State seeks is improper, I say so because the bail was granted by the High Court. It is the same court that can make alterations of the conditions.
“This court is also not competent to revoke the order that was made by another magistrate,” he said.
On the application made by Chombo, the court ruled that application for mandamus was misplaced.
He said the proper application to make was contempt of court against the said officer who ceased the application.
He said the clerk of court obeyed the court’s order when the passport was released. The Herald