Zimbabwe: Chombo Appeal Hearing On Today

Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo being escorted into Harare Magistrates court under heavy security from Military police and prison officers during his bail ruling (file photo).
14 November 2019

The Supreme Court is today expected to hear an appeal by former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, who is battling to stop his trial on charges of criminal abuse of office.

Chombo (67), is seeking a permanent stay of prosecution on the basis of alleged torture by the army.

The appeal was prompted by the High Court's decision to throw out his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

In dismissing Chombo's application, the court ruled that his alleged abduction by members of the Zimbabwe National Army during Operation Restore Legacy in November 2017 was not meant to extract a confession for criminal offences against him. Chombo, who is now being represented by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, is facing a string of cases involving high-level corruption, fraud and criminal nuisance.

Following his arrest and his subsequent appearance in court on criminal charges, Chombo petitioned the High Court last year, seeking an order to compel the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and its boss Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi to permanently suspend his prosecution, alleging violation of his constitutional rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. He claimed to have been tortured at the hands of military personnel. The then High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi found no merit in the application. He made a finding that the circumstances under which Chombo was "raided, handcuffed, blindfolded and frog-marched to a vehicle which took him to an unknown place where he was held captive for almost nine days", was not refuted in a meaningful way.

He also found that the ill-treatment infringed Chombo's constitutional rights as claimed, but raised the question whether or not the appropriate remedy should be an order for permanent stay of prosecution.

At the end, Justice Mathonsi found it appropriate to dismiss Chombo's application on the basis of the law principle that, "where the torture or ill-treatment of an accused person prior to charges being preferred against him or her has not resulted in a confession or the extraction of evidence sought to be used by the prosecution at the criminal trial, but the prosecution is relying on other evidence not obtained illegally, the accused person is not entitled to an order of permanent stay of prosecution even though he or she was ill-treated or tortured".

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