Supreme Court dismisses Mupfumira bid for bail
Harare (New Ziana) -The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by fired Tourism and Hospitality Minister Prisca Mupfumira against the refusal of bail in her corruption case by the Magistrates Court last month.
The former Minister is facing several charges of corruption and criminal abuse of office involving almost $100 million related to the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).
She became the first highest government official to be arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) in July, and has been in remand prison since then awaiting trial.
In dismissing Mupfumira’s renewed bid for freedom, Justice Anne-Marie Gowora said she was using her powers as a Supreme Court Judge to review cases heard at inferior courts, in this case the High Court, which had set aside a certificate issued by the Prosecutor General to remand Mupfumira in custody for 21 days to allow for investigations into her case.
She appeared for initial remand on 26 July 2019, before Acting Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi who refused to entertain her bail application following the issuance a certificate by chief prosecutor Michael Reza.
Mupfumira’s lawyer Charles Chinyama objected to the issuance of the certificate arguing that section 32(3b) under which it had been produced had been rendered dysfunctional because of the provisions of section 50 (1) of the Constitution.
Chinyama avered that the section makes bail a Constitutional right for every accused person, which right could not be taken away on the basis of a mere opinion from the Prosecutor General.
Mutevedzi ruled that he was satisfied that there was a reasonable suspicion that Mupfumira had committed the offences which she was being charged.
He held that all the requirements necessary for the issuance of the certificate in terms of section 32 had been met and he accordingly accepted it.
Mutevedzi then invoked section 32(3c) and ruled that the effect of the production of the certificate was to oust the court’s jurisdiction in determining issues related to an accused person’s admission to bail during its lifespan.
He ordered that Mupfumira be detained for 21 days, prompting the defense to appeal to the High Court on July 31, which criticised the decision of the lower court to accept the certificate and not entertaining the bail application.
Justice Gowora said on close scrutiny, it was evident that Mupfumira sought reliance on subsection 116 and 117 of the Act, which sections apply to initial applications for bail.
She said in her view, the appeal filed by Mupfumira to the High Court having been made in terms of subsection 116 and 117 was irregular as those sections were relevant to initial applications for bail before a court of first instance, which in this case the High Court was not, nor was it the contention by the appellant that it was.
“The appellant was not appearing before the High Court in proceedings under the Act. She appeared before the Acting Chief Magistrate on initial remand and it is to that court that an application under section 117 should have been made and determined. No such application was made or determined,” she said.
“It becomes evident therefore that reliance on section 117 by the appellant for the determination of an appeal under rule 6 was incorrect. The proceedings before the High Court were therefore irregular,” she said.
Justice Gowora also ruled that the appeal, notwithstanding its defective nature, was not properly before the High Court since the defense never challenged acceptance of the certificate by the lower court.