By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru, March 12, 2016 – POLICE on Saturday deployed tankers at the Gweru Magistrates’ court when incarcerated city mayor Hamutendi Kombayi, his deputy and the town clerk were brought for their initial remand.
The three – Kombayi, Artwell Matyorauta and town clerk Daniel Matawu – were arrested on Thursday and were later charged with criminal abuse of office.
They were remanded in custody to Monday after presiding magistrate Vimbai Makora failed to conclude the day’s proceedings citing lack of time.
The trio was fingered in an audit report released last year for allegedly spending $1 875 on MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai’s hotel accommodation when he toured the city.
Court proceedings Saturday only started at 11 am on a day the courts operate half day.
Their continued stay in custody was vehemently opposed by the defence which accused prosecutors of deliberately delaying proceedings so that their clients would further spend the weekend behind bars.
Dozens of MDC-T supporters who thronged the court in solidarity with the embattled trio were also not amused by the developments.
“This case has been dragged since morning and this is because of malice,” argued lawyer Reginald Chidawanyika.
“We have also seen some senior police officers meddling in the case in order to delay the case so that our clients spend the weekend in prison.”
Kombayi will spend two more nights at Whawha prison pending bail application on Monday.
However, during the brief court proceedings, the state and the defence, led by Chidawanyika and Brian Dube took moments arguing on what charges to prefer against the officials.
When they were arrested, they had initially been charged with theft and public abuse of office.
Chidawanyika argued that it was unconstitutional to charge the trio with an alternative charge, leading to a ruling by the magistrate that public abuse of office charges were most appropriate in the circumstances.
The state argues the offence was created before the officials were suspended by Local Minister Saviour Kasukuwere last year.
“If the state is charging the three with theft, it will be unfair to also charge them with criminal abuse of office which is deemed as an alternative offense in this case,” agued Chidawanyika.
The state preferred criminal abuse of office “since the three were acting in their capacity as public officials”.
Matyorauta, an alderman in the city had been complaining of swollen feet and heart problems since his incarceration, but the court did not take the complaint into consideration.
The trio will be back in court on Monday for bail application.
Due to the throng of MDC-T supporters in the court, baton wielding police deployed at the court anticipated violence but the proceedings were conducted peacefully.