HARARE regional magistrate Vakai Chikwekwe yesterday dismissed an application for bail pending trial filed by Zanu PF Harare provincial youth chairman Godwin Gomwe and his six co-accused in an alleged $46 000 extortion case, saying that the suspects were likely to abscond given the gravity of their crime.
BY NQOBILE NKIWANE
“If granted bail they may interfere with witnesses and the evidence of the State and they are also capable of marauding and committing other crimes and those of a similar nature,” Chikwekwe said.
Gomwe and his alleged accomplices — Muchinerepi Mpindu, Fidelis Ndaradza, Humphrey Madenyika, Haruwandi Munyaviri, Norah Torongo and Josephine Hadziende — are facing three counts of extortion involving $46 000.
They allegedly used First Lady Grace Mugabe’s name to demand protection fees from housing co-operatives in Harare.
In turning down the bail application, Chikwekwe said: “Pre-trial incarcerations cut away the presumption of innocence despite the possibility of the accused being found not guilty after the trial, but other factors are considered.”
Chikwekwe also noted that the seven had defied a High Court order barring them from interfering with the co-operatives.
“A person who is prepared to defy a High Court order is capable of defying a magistrate’s order which ranks lower,” he said.
“The number of reports at the police stations on the accused is clear testimony of a time bomb which needs to be curtailed.”
State counsel Michael Reza also told the court that Gomwe was suicidal, and produced a pistol and sachets of rat poison which were allegedly recovered from Gomwe to buttress his point.
The ruling party activists are alleged to have extorted over $46 000 from eight housing co-operatives in Glen Norah, Harare, claiming that the land they wanted to build on belonged to the First Lady before demanding bribes to “authorise” development.
They were remanded in custody to June 17 for trial.