BY CHARLES LAITON
High Court judge Justice Nyaradzo Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa has dismissed an application by ailing former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo to have his passport back after it was seized by security agents at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport last month.
The judge ordered Chombo to go back to the magistrates’ court and exhaust alternative remedies, including seeking contempt of court charges against the clerk of court, who is reported to have refused to release the passport despite an existing court order.
The former Cabinet minister’s travel document was last month seized and surrendered back to the Harare Magistrates’ Court under unclear circumstances moments after he had checked-in for a South African-bound Fastjet flight. Chombo had obtained his travel document on a temporary basis to enable him to travel to South Africa for medical treatment
However, the clerk of court refused to give it back and a Harare magistrate declined to entertain his application, citing lack of jurisdiction. Chombo then filed an urgent application at the High Court, seeking enforcement of the magistrates’ court order.
But Justice Munangati-Manongwa dismissed his application, saying Chombo had not exhausted alternative remedies for him to approach the High Court.
“The court notes that there are alternative remedies which can still achieve compliance. The magistrate’s court can still stamp its authority by ensuring compliance of its orders. It is not for the High Court to enforce the orders granted by the magistrates’ court,” the judge said.
“Where a clerk of court refuses to obey a court order when called upon to do so amounts to contempt of court, it does not require a superior court to enforce compliance with an extant court order. Courts must ensure compliance with their own orders and not expect the High Court to ‘play big brother’ where there is neither a review nor an appeal.
“Given the foregoing, the court finds that there are alternative remedies open to the applicant (Chombo) at the magistrates court to achieve the relief it seeks.”