WOES continue to mount for jailed former President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s top aide, Douglas Tapfuma, after the High Court threw out his bail appeal.
Tapfuma was imprisoned in June following a full trial before Harare regional magistrate Esthere Chivasa and was sentenced to six years before two were suspended on condition of good behaviour.
He was director of State Residences when he corruptly imported eight motor vehicles using his official capacity to his personal benefit.
His appeal was heard before High Court judge Pisirai Kwenda, who dismissed it on grounds that Tapfuma had failed to give sustainable arguments.
“The trial court gave sound reasons for imposing the sentence. Sentencing is normally within the discretion of the trial court and this court of appeal is slow to interfere with the exercise of sentencing discretion even where it would have been inclined to impose a shorter sentence of imprisonment,” Kwenda said.
“The appellant has failed to point at errors that are likely to carry the day at his appeal. If he is likely to succeed partially, say against sentence only, the likely delay before the appeal is heard becomes relevant.
“In the result, I order that the appeal against refusal of bail be and is hereby dismissed.”
Kwenda said Tapfuma’s defence that Mnangagwa had authorised the waiver of import duty on the imported cars was not credible as there is no law that authorises such conduct.
He said the argument that it would take a while before his appeal against sentence and conviction is heard had no substance since matters were now being dispensed expeditiously.
“I found the argument unsustainable. The State has the onus to disprove an explanation given by the accused at a criminal trial only if the explanation qualifies as a defence recognisable at law.
“I am not aware of any law which empowers the president to excuse any person from paying import duty,” added Kwenda.
“I find that the appellant does not have a reasonably arguable appeal. The prejudice likely to be occasioned by systematic delays in the setting down of appeals is no longer a persuasive argument in cases of bail pending appeal.”
Through his lawyer Sylvester Hashiti, who is being instructed by Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners, Tapfuma maintained that his conviction and sentencing was erroneous because the lower court failed to appreciate that Mnangagwa was aware of the imports.
Hashiti then argued that there were prospects of success of the appeal against sentence and conviction, adding that in the absence of Mnangagwa’s statement or him testifying as a complainant there was no basis for Chivasa to conclude Tapfuma’s conviction.
He said the State had relied on then deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Ray Ndhlukula’s evidence, who could not give an informed account of operations in the State Residences department since he was not employed there during the material time.