Detained Mugabe-era officials denied bail in Zimbabwe

Court denies bail to Robert Mugabe-era officials facing corruption and fraud charges, citing safety concerns.

Former Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo
Former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo faces corruption charges [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe‘s former minister of finance and economic development has been denied bail in his corruption trial.

Ignatius Chombo, an ally of ousted Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, is being held “in the interests of his safety” and to prevent any interference with state witnesses, a magistrate’s court said on Monday evening.

Chombo was arrested on Friday and charged with corruption and abuse of power.

Speaking after the hearing, Chombo’s lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, told Al Jazeera that he was “very disappointed” with the court’s decision.

“There was absolutely no basis for the assertion that he will interfere with state witnesses, nor was there reason to assert that he would abscond and escape the charges,” he said.

Madhuku said Chombo could be remanded at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, just outside the capital, Harare, until December 8.

However, Madhuku said he would be preparing an urgent motion with Zimbabwe’s High Court to have the ruling overturned within the next 48 hours.

The charges against Chombo stem from his time as minister of higher education from 1995 to 2000, and as minister of local government, public works and urban development from 2000 to 2015.

They come after a military operation led to Mugabe’s resignation last Tuesday, ending his nearly four decades in power.

Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was inaugurated as the country’s new president on Friday.

Chipanga’s bail denied

Also on Monday, Kudzanai Chipanga, the head of the ruling ZANU-PF Youth League, was denied bail and will be remanded in custody until December 8.

Magistrate Josephine Sande refused to grant Chipanga bail, on the grounds that his security may be at risk if he is released.

Shortly before his arrest on the weekend, Chipanga, a close associate of former First Lady Grace Mugabe, was confronted by protesters who shouted threats at him for his pro-Mugabe stance.

He faces charges of fraud and slander for his criticism of the head of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantino Chiwenga.

The charges carry a potential 20-year prison sentence.

Chiwenga had cautioned the then president against carrying out a series of purges within his ruling ZANU-PF regime, shortly before the military action that led to Mugabe’s resignation.

As part of that action, known as Operation Restore Legacy, the military arrested several of Mugabe’s allies.

At least four ministers, including Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, the former minister of public service, labour and social welfare, have fled the country.

An army spokesperson, Colonel Overson Mugwisi, said some government officials are still in military custody, but said details of their detention will be given at a later stage.

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Source: Al Jazeera