Mphoko, ZACC strike deal over former vice president’s court appearance: lawyer

Former President Mphoko

BULAWAYO – Former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko could appear in court as early as Wednesday, his lawyer said, after talks with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).

Lawyer Zibusiso Ncube denied Mphoko was on the run after he refused to go to a police station on Monday, accusing ZACC of going back on an undertaking that he would appear in court on the same day.

Mphoko, who said he feared being injected with a deadly poison in police cells, is facing criminal abuse of office charges. He is accused of going to a police station in 2016 when he was vice president and ordering the release of corruption-accused officials from the roads agency, ZINARA.

Mphoko arrived at the Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court by appointment on Monday. His lawyer said he had agreed with ZACC that the former vice president would be formally charged and then released on bail pending his trial in Harare.

The agreement fell apart, according to Ncube, after ZACC officials demanded that Mphoko should now go to Bulawayo Central Police Station. Mphoko’s government aides drove off and returned to his Douglasdale home, which prompted ZACC to issue a statement saying he was now on the run.

Ncube told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 on Tuesday that he had spoken to ZACC chairperson Loice Matanda-Moyo who had agreed to stick by the original agreement.

“She was surprised that Mphoko was said to be on the run, that he was avoiding appearing in court. She assured me that she never said Mphoko was on the run,” Ncube said.

“We have now agreed that Mphoko will appear in court in Bulawayo, tomorrow (Wednesday) or the day after and we should then get a date for our appearance before a court in Harare.

“I don’t expect that the former vice president will be detained, based on my discussions with ZACC.”

Legal sources told ZimLive that Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi had taken a personal interest in the matter, and he may yet shift goalposts when Mphoko turns himself in.

“Whatever deal Mphoko has with ZACC does not bind the National Prosecuting Authority. ZACC does not prosecute its cases and Hodzi is determined to oppose bail and if bail is granted, he wants the title deeds to Mphoko’s home. So all these fears Mphoko has about being sent to remand prison may yet come true,” the source said.

Mphoko lost his position after the former President Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup in November 2017.

ZACC was reconstituted in July as President Emmerson Mnangagwa sought to add fresh impetus to the fight against corruption. But critics of the body say it is slipping into a familiar weakness of selective political prosecutions, while sparing corrupt officials connected to Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party. – ZimLive