Chombo’s lawyers fume after security agents seize his passport at airport

Former Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who was among those detained by the military when they seized power before Robert Mugabe resigned this week, arrives at court on to face corruption charges in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE – Lawyers for Ignatius Chombo say the former Finance Minister, who is facing a string of corruption charges, had his passport seized at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Sunday just before he was due to fly to Johannesburg.

Chombo was seated at the departure lounge when a man, thought to be from the Central Intelligence Organisation or Military Intelligence, walked in and asked to see his passport.

The man left with the passport and never returned, Chombo’s lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said.

Chombo, who is out on bail, had the passport released back to him by Harare magistrate Barbra Mateko, with consent from prosecutors, to allow him to seek medical attention.

Madhuku said on Sunday: “We have written to the Immigration Department, we’re waiting for their response. If they fail to respond, we’re going to file an urgent application with the High Court. He was supposed to see his doctors today and tomorrow.”

The NewsDay newspaper, meanwhile, reported on Monday that Chombo’s passport had been turned over to the Harare Magistrates’ Court clerk’s office – the same office that released it.

It appears there is fear in political offices that Chombo could skip bail – joining a growing list of officials from the deposed government of former President Robert Mugabe who have fled to exile, notably former Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, former Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi and the former Deputy Minister for Higher Education Godfrey Gandawa.

Mugabe’s former loyalists say their arrests were politically motivated and question if they can get fair trials.

Chombo is facing several corruption trials, including accusations that he conspired with officials from the Ministry of Local Government, where he served for many years, to forge papers to effect ownership change of a residential stand owned by the Harare City Council.

He is also accused of fleecing the Other Crops and Livestock Support Facility, which was run by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, of ZW$14 billion in 2005. He applied for capital expenditure loans to buy farm equipment, but allegedly spent the money on luxuries including a brand-new car for his stepdaughter – the socialite Pokello Nare.