Zim's ex-finance minister to hear if he'll get bail

Ignatius Chombo when he was acting minister of agriculture opens the annual Zimbabwe tobacco marketing season in Harare in 2014. He is now charged with corruption. Photo: Jekesai Njikizana / AFP

HARARE - Ousted Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo, charged with three counts of corruption in offences that allegedly took place more than a decade ago, will find out on Monday whether he will be granted bail.

Chombo was among those detained by the military when it seized power before Robert Mugabe resigned as president on Tuesday.

Several members of a group allied to Mugabe and his wife Grace were detained and expelled from the ruling party, including Chombo, who was a known Mugabe ally.

On Saturday, Chombo told the court that he was kept blindfolded for nine days after being arrested at his home on 15 November.

His lawyer has said he was beaten in detention, although Chombo made no mention of that and had no visible injuries as he stood before magistrates in Harare.

Others ousted include the head of the influential Zanu-PF youth league Kudzanai Chipanga and a deposed leader in the party's youth wing, Innocent Hamandishe.

Some supporters of the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, have been calling for unspecified action against the so-called G40 group that backed Mugabe and his wife. Chombo, Chipanga and Hamandishe were allied to the G40.

READ: Ousted Mugabe taking it well and is 'quite jovial': nephew

Before his inauguration, Mnangagwa on Thursday urged citizens not to undertake any form of "vengeful retribution".

The state prosecutor said Chombo was charged three counts of corruption, including attempting to defraud the Zimbabwean central bank in 2004, when he was the local government minister.

He was not asked to enter a plea by the state. Chombo showed no emotion while the charges were read. The court ordered Chombo detained until Monday when his bail application will be heard.

Describing his arrest, when his wife had also been present, Chombo told the court: "While we stood in the room, there rushed in between five and six people wearing masks and all of them had guns. The guns were pointing at us."

He said he suffered lacerations on his left side when he fell as the soldiers led him out of his house to a car.

Chombo's lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, said on Friday Chombo was admitted to hospital with injuries sustained from beatings he received in military custody.

Police said they had no information on Chombo's injuries when asked to comment.

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A former university lecturer and Mugabe's ally, Chombo, was promoted in an October cabinet reshuffle from the interior ministry to the finance portfolio, against the backdrop of a severe shortage of the US dollar used by Zimbabwe.

In his main act as new finance minister, Chombo told parliament on 9 November that Zimbabwe's budget deficit would soar to $1.82-billion (R25.7-billion) or 11.2 percent of gross domestic product this year from an initial target of $400-million.

In the same court, Chipanga faced charges of making statements aimed at undermining public confidence in the defence forces and was also detained until Monday when his bail application will be heard.

Hamandishe faced six counts of kidnapping and one of publishing falsehoods and is detained in custody until 8 December.


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