Former Zimbabwe finance minister to remain in custody

2019

Ousted Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo, charged with three counts of corruption for offences that allegedly took place two decades ago, was denied bail and will be detained in custody until his case is heard on December 8.

New Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa named Patrick Chinamasa as acting finance minister to replace him.

Chombo, who faces charges including trying to defraud the central bank, was detained after the military seized power in “Operation Restore Legacy”, meant to remove “criminals” around former president Robert Mugabe.

His lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, told reporters he would appeal the magistrate’s ruling in the High Court.
“Their decision was always made that bail would not be granted here … We are hopeful the High Court will show independence,” Madhuku said.

Earlier, he told a packed courtroom Chombo, who sat impassively throughout the hearing, would deny the charges at his trial and had documentary evidence showing the allegations were unfounded.

The magistrate who detained Chombo said the former minister could abscond, influence state witnesses or be the target of a mob attack over allegations he abused his position when he was minister of local government over a decade ago.

Chombo, appointed finance minister in October, was a member of the G40 political faction allied to Mugabe and his wife, Grace, also expelled from the ruling ZANU-PF party. Two ousted ZANU-PF Youth League leaders, Kudzanai Chipanga and Innocent Hamandishe, also allied to G-40, were detained until December 8.

Some Mnangagwa supporters called for unspecified action against G40 but the president urged citizens not to undertake any form of “vengeful retribution”.

Chombo told the court he was abducted from his home on November 15 by armed men in “soldiers’ uniform” and blindfolded for nine days.

He was promoted to the finance portfolio from the interior ministry by Mugabe in an October reshuffle, replacing Chinamasa, who the chief secretary to the president and cabinet said will return to the role until a new cabinet has been appointed.

Zimbabwe is struggling with a severe shortage of the US dollars it uses instead of its own currency.

In his manor contribution as finance minister, Chombo told parliament on November 9 Zimbabwe’s budget deficit would soar to $1.82 billion or 11,2% of gross domestic product this year from an initial target of $400 million.

Mnangagwa, who served Mugabe loyally for decades, was sworn in as president last Friday after the 93-year-old former leader quit under pressure from the military.



He is expected to form a new cabinet this week. Zimbabweans are watching to see if Mnangagwa breaks with the past and names a broad-based government or selects other figures from the Mugabe era.