Former ED aide appeals for bail
JAILED former President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s top aide Douglas Tapfuma, pictured, yesterday applied for bail pending appeal against conviction and a six-year prison term for criminal abuse of office.
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 had imported eight motor vehicles using the State Residences name to his personal benefit.
His appeal was heard before High Court judge Pisirai Kwenda and judgment was reserved.
Through his lawyer Sylvester Hashiti, who is being instructed by Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners, Tapfuma maintained that his conviction and sentence was erroneous because the lower court failed to appreciate that Mnangagwa was aware of the imports.
Hashiti argued 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 former 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.
“In the lower court, it was accepted that Ndhlukula was not in the Office of the President in the past to be a competent witness to comment on what happened in the past. The principal (Mnangagwa) did not issue a statement or testified that he had authorised appellant to act in the manner he did.
“In the absence of that, there is a probability that what the appellant also told the court could be true”.
Hashiti said the sentence imposed was too harsh in the circumstances since Tapfuma had not benefited financially.
He said a year’s imprisonment could have been justified.
However, Kwenda questioned if Mnangagwa had expressly authorised Tapfuma to import the cars or if it was just a common practice at the department.
He urged Hashiti not to lose sight of the fact that Chivasa had considered Tapfuma’s proximity to the highest office when she sentenced him.
“I just find it unusual that the president could authorise that, in terms of what law? I am failing to grasp the essence of appellant’s defence. Are you saying that the president can just do anything,” asked Kwenda.
“The reason why I find that submission problematic is that the president does not act in person, but through an office.”
Prosecutor Fungai Nyahunzvi argued that there was nothing wrong with Tapfuma’s conviction and sentence and that releasing him would cause the public to lose trust in the justice system.
“It would make people think that he got off lightly because of his proximity to the highest office. The public would lose confidence if a sentence other than imprisonment was imposed,” he averred.