18 June 2019

Zimbabwe: Chombo Passport - State Denies Knowledge of Person Who Seized It

Photo: The Herald
Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo (file photo).

In a surprising turn of events, the State has denied confiscating former Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo's passport but admits it is in the hands of the Clerk of Court.

Chombo who is facing several charges related to corruption and abuse of office was last month granted his passport after indicating he wanted to travel to South Africa for medical attention.

However, the former Zanu PF secretary for administration was unceremoniously bundled out of a plane at the Robert Mugabe International Airport before his passport was seized by suspected State security agents.

An attempt to have his passport back through a High Court application hit a brick-wall forcing the former Cabinet Minister to approach the Supreme Court.

But the State represented by Addington Chinake in its response claimed it was unaware who had seized the travel document.

"The real issue is whether the order was complied with or not. The Clerk (at the Magistrate's Court) fully complied with the court order. The misfortune which befell the applicant was not caused by any of the respondent.

"This is a criminal matter in which the magistrate is not only bound by jurisdiction but certain mechanisms in how to deal with such cases," said Chinake.

"In this case, the key fact is that the passport was released. New circumstances occurred and it was taken by an unknown person. There was no need to bother the High court and the appellant is choosing a remedy which is not supported by the law.

"Clearly, the record doesn't show connivance between the unknown person and the respondents."

Appearing for the Prosecutor General's office an official identified as E Makoto said: "The fourth respondent (PG) is surprised how he is being joined in these proceedings. The prosecutor consented to the release of the passport. There was also no misdirection by the High Court."

Chombo's lawyer Lovemore Madhuku was left in shock by the claims arguing the order by Magistrate Babra Mateko should be honoured.

Supreme Court Judge, Justice Antonia Guvava who Chombo's appeal on Tuesday also queried why and who was holding the passport.

"Under what rule of law is the clerk of court keeping the passport," said Justice Guvava.

Madhuku argued that the pass port was now with the Clerk of Court illegally.

"The Clerk of Court admitted the passport was returned the very same day it was seized from the applicant. It was on a Sunday and that action shows subversion of the entire justice system," said Madhuku.

Justice Guvava dismissed the application indicating reasons will be given in due course.

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