By Mark Mhukayesango
Gweru, March 15, 2016 – Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi’s British citizenship came back to haunt him in court on Monday as the state used that to oppose his bail application arguing that he was a flight risk.
Regional Magistrate Pathekile Msipa presided over the bail hearing Monday morning and was set to make a ruling this Tuesday as the state sought to nail Kombayi, Town Clerk Daniel Matawu and Deputy Mayor Artwell Matyorauta.
The three face criminal abuse of office charges, which they all deny.
The state, represented by Helen Khoza, argued that if released on bail, the MDC-T politician would sell the Midlands Hotel and run away to his birthplace Britain.
The state also argued that the trio would interfere with state witnesses, an argument dismissed by the lawyers.
Msipa said she needed time to assess the voluminous submissions made by both the defense and the state.
Kombayi, son to the late firebrand politician and first Gweru black mayor Patrick Kombayi, was born and spent his early childhood in Britain before settling in Zimbabwe.
He has been a regular visitor to the European country and early this year spent over a month there, only returning back to Zimbabwe in February.
Kombayi and his co-accused have been incarcerated since Thursday and on Saturday were remanded in custody, spending the weekend at Whawha Prison.
MDC-T supporters thronged the court on Monday in solidarity with the embattled Gweru mayor, but there was a tense mood as police continued with their heavy presence within the confines of the court building.
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.
MDC councillor for Ward 4, Kenneth Sithole alleged that Kombayi’s case was being politicised.
“There are many times that council funded some Zanu PF projects. So it becomes criminal when Morgan Tsvangirai in involved; this is political,” fumed Sithole.
Sithole told RadioVOP he was seeing a protracted case ahead meant to frustrate the defence council.
The defence council accused the police of inflating the figure from $1, 850 to $185,000 as reported in the state media.
Kombayi and Matawu were arrested last week Thursday but were only charged Friday at 11 pm, a development that was caught the ire of Kombayi’s lawyers Reginald Chidawanyika and Brian Dube.