Chief Court Reporter
FUGITIVE former Zinara acting chief executive officer Moses Julius Juma, who was lying low after his appeal against conviction and sentence for abuse of office was struck off by the High Court, has now been committed to prison since his bail lapsed, but has been allowed to resubmit his appeal.
Since his appeal was struck off the roll at the High Court last year, Juma had been lying low, prompting the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) to launch a manhunt to no avail.
Juma resurfaced last Friday when High Court judge Justice Pisirayi Kwenda sitting with Justice Benjamin Chikowero, refused to hear the appeal in his absence. The judge ordered his lawyer to have Juma brought to court and explain why he stayed out of custody when his appeal was dismissed.
When he finally came, Juma failed to justify his action and was committed to prison.
Justice Kwenda also found that Juma had successfully applied for condonation and leave to appeal out of time from the comfort of his home.
“He was granted the leave and filed a new appeal this year,” said Justice Kwenda. “He was lucky that his application was heard while he was at home yet his bail had lapsed.”
Juma was first arrested in 2016 for abuse of office but was released after former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko stormed Avondale Police Station and demanded his immediate release.
He was rearrested in 2018 and sentenced to 30 months in prison and was supposed to serve two years in jail after six months were suspended from his sentence.
Juma was convicted for handpicking a tax consultancy company on a contract worth US$500 000 without going to tender as required.
Following his conviction, Juma approached the High Court appealing against his conviction and was granted $5 000 bail.
His appeal came before Justice Kwenda and Justice Felistus Chatukuta, now a Supreme Court judge, and the matter was struck off because his grounds of appeal were invalid.
As soon as his appeal was struck off he was supposed to hand himself in and start serving because his bail had terminated. Instead he stayed at home while the ZACC launched a manhunt for him.
ZACC recently issued a statement that since the court upheld his conviction, Juma had vanished and was now on the wanted list.
This once happened in October last year, when former Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) board chairman Stanley Kazhanje attempted to outfox the justice system by applying for bail pending appeal against a three-year jail term for corruption while in the comfort of his home.
The move backfired when Justice Kwenda noticed it and ordered his incarceration.
Kazhanje had not handed himself in when his appeal against both conviction and sentence last month was struck off by the High Court because it was defective and bad at law.
He instead filed a fresh application for bail pending appeal from his home. Kazhanje’s submission that he was in custody at the time of filing the bail application was misleading. But Justice Kwenda became suspicious and enquired from his lawyers if Kazhanje was in custody.
His lawyers told the court that their client was in custody, but dissatisfied with the response, Justice Kwenda requested the lawyers to bring him to court in person.
The judge also asked the prosecution counsel in the matter to check with the prisons if indeed Kazhanje had handed himself in after his appeal was struck off.
Prison authorities said Kazhanje was out of custody.
He was then brought before the judge who wanted an explanation why he was applying for bail when he was not in prison.
But Kazhanje argued that the same court had previously released him on bail pending his appeal after finding that he was a suitable candidate for bail.
This, he argued, had not changed save for the technicalities alluded to by the court. But Justice Kwenda did not agree with his assertion, which he found to be untenable.
The judge then told Kazhanje that he could not get bail while he was out of custody and committed Kazhanje to prison saying it was up to him to submit a fresh application for bail pending appeal if he still wanted to pursue his appeal.
Kazhanje, who was serving his sentence at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison was granted $1 000 bail by the Harare High Court in 2019.
He was convicted of taking a US$10 000 bribe from Intratrek Zimbabwe, a company which had been awarded a US$172 million tender to build a 100 megawatt solar power plant in Gwanda.