By Fidelis Munyoro
Former principal director of State Residences, Douglas Tapfuma, has lost a High Court appeal to quash both conviction and a four-year imprisonment term imposed on him for criminal abuse of office.
Tapfuma was in July last year jailed effective four years and had six vehicles forfeited to the State following his conviction on three charges of criminal abuse of office.
Aggrieved with the trial court’s decision, Tapfuma took the matter up to the High Court on appeal.
But sitting as an appellant court, two judges of the High Court Justice Benjamin Chikowero and Justice Pisirayi Kwenda, upheld both the conviction and sentence.
Writing the judgment for the court, Justice Chikowero took cognisance of the fact that corruption by was by nature a social evil and a challenge to democracy, rule of law, social development and economic growth.
“Also considered was the fact that appellant abused the integrity of the President’s Office, which is the highest office in this country,” he said.
In addition, the judge characterised corruption as a special problem requiring extraordinary measures to eradicate and in this case the offence was detected by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission while it was investigating a different matter.
“So it was difficult to detect.
“It was neither the Office of the President and Cabinet nor anybody else, besides ZACC, which detected and thereafter investigated the crime leading to the successful prosecution of the appellant,” said Justice Chikowero.
In convicting Tapfuma, the trial court also considered that he abused his position of trust on no less than three occasion and the offences were premeditated, carefully planned and executed.
To this end, Justice Chikowero found against Tapfuma that when Zimra collects revenue for Treasury, the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds collected are the citizens of this country, but in this case Tapfuma solely benefited at the expenses of the entire nation.
On sentencing, the court found that imprisonment was the appropriate unless there were cogent reasons justifying imposition of non-custodial sentence.
“Having found no such cogent reasons, Justice Chikowero considered that the trial magistrate did not misdirect himself in imposing a custodial sentence.
“The sentence imposed is neither vitiated by any irregularity nor misdirection. It is not disturbingly inappropriate.
“It is not shocking,” said Justice Chikowero dismissing Tapfuma’s appeal in its entirety.
Harare regional magistrate Ms Esthere Chivasa last year in June sentenced Tapfuma for two years in jail on each count before suspending two years.
She declared the forfeiture of six cars — a Toyota Hiace, Toyota Altezza, BMW 318i, Nissan Tiida and two Honda Fit vehicles — out of the eight cars he imported.
In passing sentence, the magistrate made it clear that corrupt practices required deterrent punishment. During his tenure as principal director of State Residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Tapfuma imported the eight vehicles using bills of entry exclusively reserved for bringing into the country the President’s personal goods and for the Government.
By doing this, he avoided paying duty. Two out of the cars Tapfuma imported were donated to Kwekwe Hospital as ambulances. The Herald