Supreme Court shoots down Chombo’s passport plea

BY CHARLES LAITON

AILING former finance minister, Ignatius Chombo’s bid to get back his seized passport to enable him to travel to South Africa for medical attention went up in flames yesterday after the Supreme Court dismissed his urgent application.

Deputy Chief Justice, Elizabeth Gwaunza, who was sitting with Justices Antoinette Guvava and Chinembiri Bhunu, dismissed Chombo’s application, saying the full reasons for the judgment would follow in due course.

Chombo, charged with criminal abuse of office on May 10, 2019, was granted temporary release of his passport to enable him to travel to South Africa for
medical check-ups. The passport was, however, seized by a State security agent at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport two days later as he was
about to board a South African-bound plane.

The document was then handed back to the Harare Magistrates Court on the same day, prompting him to approach the clerk of court for its release, but to no
avail.

Chombo then approached the High Court seeking an order to compel release of the document, but the latter dismissed his application on the basis that he had not
exhausted all available remedies in the lower court, including filing contempt of court charges against the clerk of court.

He then approached the Supreme Court for recourse, arguing that the High Court judge who handled his application misdirected himself by not ordering compliance
of the court order by the magistrate.

In his submissions, Chombo’s lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said the primary remedy which his client had sought was for a mandamus order, which the magistrate refused to grant citing lack of jurisdiction. Madhuku further said suggestions that his client ought to have filed contempt of court charges against the secret service agent who seized the passport, would not hold water since the said agent was not known to his client.

But, Addington Chinake, who represented the clerk of court, magistrate, High Court and the Judicial Services Commission maintained that Chombo had other remedies to his predicament since he knew that his passport had been taken by either immigration officials or secret agent officers from the State security.

Chinake further said Chombo ought to have approached the magistrates’ court and applied for the release of his passport rather than filing a fresh application for a mandamus order at the High Court. He said the High Court was not at fault when it made a finding that the former Cabinet minister had other remedies.
Edmore Makoto represented the Prosecutor-General.

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