BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE/XOLISANI NCUBE
FORMER Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Priscah Mupfumira’s bid for freedom hit a snag after the Supreme Court yesterday turned down her bail application, citing procedural irregularities.
Supreme Court judge Justice Marie-Anne Gowora dismissed the bail application for lack of merit and on the basis that the appeal was defective.
In a hard-hitting ruling delivered yesterday, Justice Gowora criticised the decision by High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere to set aside a certificate which had been issued by the Prosecutor-General to detain the ex-minister for 21 days without applying for bail, saying she was wrong to do so.
“In my view, the court a quo was not properly seized with this matter and the decision to set aside was a gross irregularity. There was no legal premise before the court a quo to interfere with the certificate. Its acceptance by the acting chief magistrate was an exercise of his discretion in terms of the Act, which exercise was never challenged. The court a quo was invited and persuaded to set it aside on the basis of submissions made to it by appellant’s counsel premised on the alleged constitutional invalidity of s32(3b) of the Act. I have already found that those remarks by the court a quo have no legal justification,” Gowora ruled.
“Accordingly, it is ordered as follows: The appeal is dismissed. In the exercise of my review powers under s25(2) of the Supreme Court Act [Chapter 7:13], the proceedings of the High Court brought by the appellant under Case No HREP 10641/19 be and are hereby set aside. For the avoidance of doubt, the decision by the High Court to set aside the certificate issued by the Prosecutor-General and produced to the acting chief magistrate on July 26, 2019 is hereby set aside in accordance with the provisions of s25(2) of the Supreme Court Act,” the Supreme Court ruling read.
Mupfumira, who is facing seven counts of corruption-related charges, was arrested on July 25 by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and has been languishing in remand prison since them.
In her submissions before the Supreme Court through her lawyers Chinyama and Partners, Mupfumira stated that the State’s evidence against her was weak, adding that the High Court had erred in many respects when it denied her a chance to be tried while out of custody.
But the Supreme Court judge said the whole process was defective and her lawyers were fully aware of the correct process.
Mupfumira is facing allegations of swindling the National Social Security Authority of over US$95 million.
Mupfumira came to Harare Magistrates’ Courts yesterday seeking to make a fresh bail application after unsuccessful bids at the High Court and Supreme Court.
But she failed to appear before any magistrate after the State discovered that there was no notice given to them for the bail application.
Her lawyer, Charles Chinyama, said they have deferred the bail application to tomorrow.
“We wanted to make a fresh bail application, but unfortunately, the State was not prepared and we deferred it to this Thursday (tomorrow),” Chinyama said.