By Mashudu Netsianda
Former Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko, who has allegedly been resisting arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission for the past five days, was yesterday brought before the courts for unlawfully instructing some junior police officers to release from detention cells, former Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) acting chief executive, Moses Juma, who was facing abuse of office charges.
Mphoko (79) of Douglasdale suburb appeared before Provincial magistrate-in-charge of Bulawayo Metropolitan province, Mr Enias Magate, facing charges of criminal abuse of office as a public officer as defined in Section 174 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
He was remanded out of custody to September 4 on $1 000 bail.
Mphoko was ordered to report once a week at the CID Commercial Crimes Divisions in Bulawayo and to surrender his passport as part of the bail conditions.
He was also ordered not to interfere with State witnesses and to reside at his given address until the matter is finalised. His next court appearance will be at the Harare magistrate’s court.
The seemingly unfazed Mphoko, who was clad in a navy blue suit, arrived in court from his home under the escort of his aides. He was with his wife, Laurinda, their son, Siqokoqela and his lawyer Mr Zibusiso Ncube of Ncube and Partners Legal Practitioners.
Principal Public Prosecutor in charge of Bulawayo district, Mr Thompson Hove, said between July 13 and 14 in 2016 while he was still Vice President, Mphoko stormed Avondale Police Station to release Juma.
“On May 6, 2016, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) received a report of allegations of fraud and criminal abuse of duty against Zinara officials. Investigations that ensued resulted in the arrest of Davison Norupiri and Juma. The two were charged with criminal abuse of duty and their warned and cautioned statements were recorded on July 12, 2016,” said Mr Hove.
He said after the arrest, Juma and Norupiri were taken to Avondale Police Station on the following day pending their appearance in court.
On the same day at around 6PM, Mphoko, who was at the time the Acting President, stormed the police station and criminally abused his duty as a public officer by ordering the immediate release of Juma and Norupiri from lawful police custody.
The Officer-in-Charge stood his ground challenging the unlawful instruction before he later complied with Mphoko’s order under duress and released the two men.
Mphoko drove away with them in his car.
When Zacc officials went to Avondale Police Station on the following day intending to take Juma and Norupiri to court, they discovered that police had released them acting on Mphoko’s orders.
“The accused person being a public officer and by virtue of his position as Vice-President acted contrary to his duties as a public officer by ordering the release of Juma and Norupiri,” said Mr Hove.
He said Mphoko’s actions were in violation of Section 106 of the Constitution which clearly spells out the conduct of Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
In his warned and cautioned statement, Mphoko is denying the charges, saying they are malicious and frivolous.
“I deny the charge in toto. I confirm that I was indeed the Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe at that time. During my entire tenure as VP, I acted within the confines of the law and in accordance with policies formulated by the Presidency and the government of the day. These charges are actuated by malice and are frivolous,” he said.
Mphoko said he was prepared to stand trial before the courts and defend himself.
Mr Ncube told the court that his client was harassed by Zacc officials when they stormed his house and attempted to arrest him on Friday last week.
He said Mphoko and his family were traumatised when it was reported both in the print and electronic media as well as circulated on social media that he was a fugitive at law.
“We urge the court to direct prosecution to investigate the harassment of my client by Zacc officials who stormed his private property intending to effect an unlawful arrest. I did confer with the Zacc chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo and it was agreed that there has to be an apology for their conduct. We also discussed with Justice Matanda-Moyo that it is common cause that the accused person is not a fugitive at law and our client respects Zacc, its officials as well as its mandate and that the matter should be resolved at law.
Initial reports are that Mphoko had resisted arrest on Friday at his home in Douglasdale, despite having initially agreed to meet Zacc officers at the Bulawayo Central Police Station.
His lawyers had gone to Zacc offices to submit his statement but the investigators demanded that he must appear before them.
That is when they agreed to meet at a neutral venue, a police station in the city.
On Monday afternoon, Mphoko indicated that he was now on his way to the police station for recording of his warned and cautioned statement.
Upon arrival at the station, Mphoko then drove off at high speed. The Chronicle