By Tendai Rupapa
Former Finance and Economic Development Minister Ignatius Chombo yesterday appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court facing fresh charges of criminal abuse of office. Chombo — who at the material time that the offence was allegedly committed was Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development — reportedly withdrew Chargan Vithal Rama’s 60-year lease for stand number 554/547Chirundu Fish Farm.
This was after Rama had turned down the politician’s request to cede 25 percent of his business to him. Chombo was not asked to plead when he appeared before magistrate Ms Victoria Mashamba who remanded him out of custody on the same bail conditions he was issued at the High Court early this year.
It is the State’s case that sometime in 2001, Rama got a 60-year lease for stand number 554/547Chirundu Fish Farm, which was set to expire in 2054.
Sometime in 2007, after making developments worth $500 000 on the fish farm, Rama ran out of money and approached banks for funding. All the banks he approached, the court heard, needed surety in the form of title deeds for the said land.
Through his brother Amrat, Rama arranged a meeting with Chombo and according to the State, the aim of the meeting was to ask Chombo to facilitate the issue of the title deeds so that Rama would surrender them as surety. Prosecutor Mr Edmore Nyazamba alleged that sometime in 2007, Chombo suggested that the meeting be held at his house.
It is the State’s case that at the meeting, Chombo told the pair that he would facilitate for the title deeds to be released on condition that Rama surrenders 25 percent share of the business to him. Rama advised Chombo that he would think about the request. However, Rama turned down Chombo’s conditions.
On December 12, 2009, Chombo, the court heard, after realising that Rama had failed to give him the 25 percent shares, unprocedurally caused the withdrawal of his lease.
In 2012, Chombo is alleged to have given verbal instructions to his subordinates to allocate to Glory Boost Pvt Ltd a lease to the same property without following procedures. It is alleged Glory Boost Pvt Ltd did not apply for the said land.