By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru, March 16, 2016 – GWERU mayor Hamutendi Kombayi was Tuesday released on $200 bail after Regional Magistrate Pathekile Msipa dismissed the state’s argument he was a flight risk.
Kombayi, Town Clerk Daniel Matawu and Deputy Mayor Artwell Matyorauta who were also released on $200 bail tasted freedom almost a week after being arrested on allegations of abusing public office.
As part of their bail conditions, the three will surrender their passports and continue to reside at their places of residence.
They were also ordered to report at Gweru Central police every Friday between 6 am and 6 pm until the case is completed.
The trio will be back in court on April 15 for further trial.
Magistrate Msipa shot down the state’s case that the trio would abscond and interfere with state witnesses citing that even Kombayi was assisting the police with investigations upon his return from the United Kingdom.
Msipa also said that Kombayi had returned to Zimbabwe fully aware of the charges against him thereby dismissing the state’s case.
On Monday, the defense counsel led by Reginald Chidawanyika submitted that the state had no compelling reasons to deny the trio bail, insisting that they were not likely to abscond court.
Chidawanyika argued that Kombayi had travelled to the United Kingdom on November 12 last year for a medical check-up and came back on January 29 this year well aware of the audit report.
“He went on his volition to the police to ask if there was anyone looking for him and the possible reasons but no arrests were made,” Chidawanyika argued.
Chidawanyika told RadioVOP that the arrest was meant to frustrate MDC-T’s bid to regain control of council.
“The arrests are meant to frustrate and prevent our clients from successfully regaining control of council since Justice Bere ruled in their favour,” said Chidawanyika.
Since Kombayi and 11 councillors won the High Court ruling they have been fighting to get back to the Town House, but head of the commission, Tsunga Mhangami has been adamant, locking Kombayi out last week before his arrest.
Kombayi’s release comes as a relief to the councillors who say they will continue to fight for their position in council.
Councillor for Ward 17 Farai Muza said:”We are looking up to him to lead the struggle so we are happy that finally the courts have released him. Now we can go back to work.”
The councillors have been camping at the Town House demanding audience with Mhangami who they say has overstayed at council.
“We will not be deterred by such arrests,” said Muza.
MDC has urged its councillors who were suspended last August to report for duty, whilst the party pursues contempt of court charges against Kasukuwere.
Allegations are that the trio hatched a plan to abuse ratepayers’ funds by paying for personal and private expenses.
It is alleged that between July 31, 2013 and June 30, 2015, the three used their positions as public officers to abuse council funds.
During the period, they allegedly paid MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s $1,875 bill at the Antelope Park resort.
It is further alleged that the trio connived to make a payment of $6,858 at the Fairmile and Village lodges using ratepayers’ money to meet personal expenses, prejudicing council of a total $8,733.