GWERU, MIDLANDS PROVINCE —
A Gweru regional magistrate has granted bail to Gweru mayor Hamutendi Kombayi, his deputy Artwell Matyorauta, and town clerk Daniel Matawu, who are jointly facing charges of abuse of office.
Magistrate Phathekile Msipa granted each $200 bail on condition that they should surrender their passports as well as report to the police every Friday until the matter is finalised.The case is set for April 15th.
The three had been in custody since last Thursday following their arrest by police on charges of abuse of office.
According to the state outline, between July 2013 and June last year Kombayi, Matyorauta and Matawu allegedly used their positions as public officers to abuse council funds. They allegedly paid MDC-T leader MorganTsvangirai's bill of $1,875 at a private lodge outside Gweru.
The three are alleged to have also conspired to make a payment of $6,858 at a local hotel and at another lodge, prejudicing council of a total $8,733. The state had opposed the granting of bail arguing that the charges that the trio was facing were serious and that they could interfere with witnesses or abscond.
But in her granting of the bail, Msipa said the allegations that the accused are facing originate from an audit done in July last year and they had been aware of them for a while. Msipa said in the intervening period, one of the accused, Kombayi had travelled to the United Kingdom and back, adding that this was not consistent with someone who would flee.
The magistrate also said the matter had been reported in December 2015 and the police had adequate time to carry out their investigations so there was no risk that the three could interfere with investigations.
Attorney Brian Dube, one of the lawyers representing the three, confirmed the granting of the bail to Studio 7 and said the accused are denying the charges that they are facing.
Prior to his arrest, Kombayi and some of his colleagues had recently been seeking to resume their normal duties following last month’s High Court ruling overturning their suspension.
Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere last August suspended all 18 Gweru councillors on allegations of abuse of office, maladministration and corruption, but the court ruled that the suspension was illegal as the minister has no powers to act unilaterally under the country’s constitution.