SENIOR STAFF WRITER
SUSPENDED Zimbabwe Miners Federation boss Henrietta Rushwaya, who is accused of attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold out of the country, will languish in prison after the High Court denied her bail yesterday.
Rushwaya has been in custody since October after she was busted at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport as she was set to fly to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, when airport security scanners flagged her hand luggage which concealed the gold worth nearly US$400 000.
She is represented by Tapson Dzvetero and is jointly charged with Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives Steven Tserayi and Raphios Mufandauya, Gift Karanda and businessman Ali Mohamad, who has since been released on $100 000 bail.
High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero denied Rushwaya, Tserayi and Mufandauya bail, saying they should not compare themselves to Mohamad.
“This is not an appeal against the admission of Mohamad to bail. The submission by counsel that the appellants ought to have been treated like Mohamad is misplaced.
“I have shown that their own appeals have no merit. That is what matters,” ruled Chikowero.
“The appeals by all three appellants against the refusal to admit them to bail be and are hereby dismissed.”
Chikowero said magistrate Ngoni Nduna was correct to withdraw the concession initially made for Rushwaya’s release since more culprits were later arrested for the offence.
He ruled that nature, gravity and likely penalty tipped the scales against Rushwaya and her accomplices.
“The court a quo assessed the case before it and concluded that the respondent had succeeded in proving on a balance of probabilities that there were compelling reasons justifying the continued detention of the appellants. It gave reasons why it came to that conclusion,” added Chikowero.
“The two compelling reasons found to have been established were that the appellants were likely to abscond and interfere with evidence and investigations. This to me means the court below did not misdirect itself on the law applicable to the matter before it. It did not err in principle.”
Chikowero also pointed out that in assessing risk of absconding, Nduna had considered the strength of the prosecution case and the efficacy of the amount or nature of bail and enforceability of any bail conditions.
“The magistrate also considered that all three were facing multiple offences. I agree that the cumulative seriousness of those offences was a relevant factor. The maximum penalties for smuggling and dealing in or possession of gold without a permit is five years imprisonment,” he said.
“…for bribery the maximum sentence is 20 years. These are not insubstantial and it was not wrong to find that the fear of incarceration for long periods was highly likely to motivate flight from jurisdiction.”