Fidelis Munyoro and Freeman Razemba
PROSECUTOR Tapiwa Kasema, who is under investigation for consenting to bail for four notorious armed robbers led by suspected gang leader — Musa Taj Abdul — is reportedly on the run, hours after he was suspended from duty by Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi.
Officers from Harare Central Police Station, who were keen to question him as the investigation started yesterday, could not locate him at his Glen View 3 home where his family professed ignorance over his whereabouts.
Sources said the police first visited Kasema’s residence in 49th Crescent on Tuesday night, but did not find him.
They later proceeded to his mother’s house where the search yielded the same result.
Continued efforts to locate him yesterday were fruitless.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi could not comment on the issue yesterday, saying it was still premature.
Police sources, however, said authorities had since launched a manhunt for Kasema.
He was arrested in May last year on criminal abuse of office charges after he allegedly consented to the release of a passport belonging to former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo, who is facing a slew of corruption allegations.
Abdul (47) was on Monday granted bail by High Court Judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero along with co-accused Godfrey Mupamhanga (27), Rudolf Tapiwa Kanhanga (29) and Douglas Mutenda (31), but remained in custody as the four are facing fresh charges.
Before they could post bail money on Tuesday, police brought up fresh charges against the suspects and requested that they remain in custody pending their remand hearing on the new charges and further investigations.
The four were arrested in Beitbridge in August with five others — Charles Lundu (47), Tapiwa Mangoma alias Tapa (27), Innocent Jairosi (32), Prince Makodza (31) and Liberty Mupamhanga (29).
Chief Law Officer in the Prosecutor-General’s Office Mr Justin Uladi confirmed the suspension of Kasema, saying the matter has been referred to the police for investigations, while they are preparing to launch an appeal against the High Court decision.
“We are proceeding to suspend Tapiwa Kasema who consented to bail in the case of the armed robbers,” said Mr Uladi.
“We have further referred his case to the police for investigation because we are of the view that the consent was corruptly made.”
Mr Uladi said the State is appealing against Justice Chikowero’s decision to grant bail.
“Our prosecutor did not have the requisite authority to file the consent order as per our standard operating procedures,” he said.
“Further, the judge misdirected himself in relying on a concession which was improperly made. In an event the judge was not bound by the concession by the prosecutor. Therefore, the judge did not properly apply his mind to the case before him.”
Kasema made headlines when he was arrested last year on criminal abuse of office charges after he allegedly consented to the release of a passport belonging to former Cabinet minister Ignatius Chombo, who was facing several corruption allegations.
He was arrested by officers from the Criminal Investigations Department Commercial Crime Division and his docket was being handled by the Anti-Corruption Special Unit department.
Abdul, Mupamhanga and Mutenda, who have been in custody for about four months, were granted $5 000 bail each by Justice Chikowero, while Kanhanga was released on $2 000 bail.
As part of their bail conditions, they were ordered to reside at their given addresses and report to the police every Friday between 6am and 6pm until the matter has been finalised.
When the alleged robbers appeared before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts in August on several charges of armed robbery, they were escorted by more than 10 police officers from the CID Homicide Unit.
They were not asked to plead when they appeared before Mr Richard Ramaboa who remanded them in custody and were advised to apply for bail at the High Court.
Charges against the gang arose on July 24 when it pounced on 40 Longford Street in Queensdale, Harare, arriving in separate vehicles.
They removed precast wall panels to gain entry and then, masked and armed with a shotgun and a pistol, forced open the lounge door with an iron bar and allegedly confronted the complainant’s brother-in-law who was seated in the lounge.
He shouted for help and fled towards the kitchen intending to escape through the back door where he was confronted by another robber who was standing outside the house.
They manhandled him and tied his hands from behind with shoelaces. It is alleged that the gang went on to confront the complainant who had locked himself in the bedroom from the inside together with his wife and children.
The gang forced open the door with an iron bar and confronted the family before ordering the couple to lie down on the floor while covering the wife with a blanket. They assaulted the complainant demanding cash and valuables while ransacking the room.
They allegedly stole US$1 473 from the wife’s handbag and five cellphones, handbags, eye glasses, power banks, face masks and valuables. The total value of the stolen goods was US$7 516.
In the second robbery, it is alleged that on the following day, July 25, the gang in the company of their nine co-accused persons still at large, armed themselves with a shotgun, pistol, hammer and iron bars and went to the Trauma Centre at 1 Borrowdale Lane.
After smashing down doors and stealing phones and laptops, they eventually tried and failed to open the safe.
Meanwhile, the owner and his wife had been summoned and went with security guards to rescue their staff.
The gang then fled but the owner gave chase and rammed twice into the back of the suspects’ car, which plunged into a ditch at corner Borrowdale and Beach Roads before hitting a precast wall.
The accused in the rammed car then fled on foot with their firearms while the others fled in another getaway car. A report was made at ZRP Borrowdale. The total value of items stolen is US$3 465 and nothing was recovered.