Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira, who is facing seven counts of criminal abuse of public office, yesterday wept in court after acting chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi placed her on custodial remand for 21 days.
Mupfumira sobbed after Mr Mutevedzi upheld an application by the State to detain her for 21 days as provided under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Section 32, which empowers the State to seek further detention due to the gravity of a case.
Mupfumira was arrested on Thursday by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on corruption allegations involving US$95 million National Social Security Authority (NSSA) funds.
Chief prosecutor Mr Michael Reza presented a certificate from the Prosecutor General’s Office to detain Mupfumira for three weeks on the basis that she could use her position, as minister, to interfere with investigations.
In the ruling, the magistrate said issues raised by the defence led by Mr Charles Chinyama, in their attack of the validity of the certificate, were of no use as they all related to an application for admission to bail which was not the issue before the court.
Chief among the contentions that the defence raised was that section 32 is unconstitutional arguing it violates section 50 subsection 1 subparagraph (b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe; which provides that any person who is arrested must be released unconditionally.
The defence also argued that; “the State had acted contrary to section 32 subsection 3 (b) subparagraph (b) subparagraph (i) which requires that there must be proof that the arresting officer was of or above the rank of assistant inspector.”
Mr Chinyama said there is no indication that the accused person benefitted from all the funds that were allegedly siphoned out of NSSA except for a few thousand dollars which she signed for onward submission to persons attending official functions.
Mr Mutevedzi, however, said the right to bail as enshrined in the Constitution was not an absolute.
“Given all these pointers linking the accused person to the commission of the offence, the court is convinced that indeed the State has established grounds which constitute reasonable suspicion that the accused committed offences preferred against her.
“The court, therefore, has no hesitation to find that all the requirement for the production of the Prosecutor Generals Certificate produced in terms of section 32 subsection 3 (b) have been met.
“The effect of that certificate is to oust this court and every other court’s jurisdiction in determining issues related to the accused person’s admission to bail during the lifespan of that certificate.”
Mupfumira will be back in court on 9 August for routine remand.