By Prosper Dembedza
Former principal director of State Residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Douglas Tapfuma’s bid for freedom hit a brick wall yesterday after Harare Provincial magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya dismissed his application for bail on the basis that there had been no changes to circumstances relating to the case.
Tapfuma allegedly abused his office by facilitating the importation of several vehicles duty-free.
In his application for bail on the basis of changed circumstances Tapfuma through his lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange submitted that the case did not constitute a serious offence and should attract a level 13 fine.
Mr Samukange told the court that the fact that a trial date for his client was now in place also constitutes changed circumstances in the matter.
Mr Samukange proposed that his client be granted $500 bail.
He also proposed that Tapfuma be ordered to reside at his given address, surrender his passport with the clerk of court not to interfere with witnesses and to report once every Friday at Waterfalls Police Station.
“Two commuter omnibuses, which are part of exhibits have been released to Kwekwe Council where they are being used as ambulances and that is also another change in circumstances,” he said.
The State led by Mr Clemence Chimbare opposed the application saying Tapfuma was a flight risk given that he now knows that a trial date for the matter has been set and that they are witnesses to testify.
Mr Chimbare told the court that Tapfuma was also likely to interfere with State witnesses now that he had been served with State papers containing witness statements.
He called the investigating officer Mr Timothy Guta to strengthen its position in opposing bail.
Mr Guta told the court that he was opposed to granting of bail to Tapfuma since investigations were still ongoing.
Mr Mujaya dismissed Tapfuma’s application saying they are no changed circumstances in the matter. Allegations against Tapfuma arose when he purchased two personal minibuses from South Africa under the guise of the Government on April 10, 2018.
On April 17, 2018 he allegedly assigned Bonani Ganyane, an officer working in the transport section of the Department of State Residences to proceed to Beitbridge and facilitate clearance of the two vehicles on behalf of the department using report order forms as if they were Government vehicles.
It is the State case that clearance of goods by report order form is a clearance procedure that is normally used by Government departments to apply for deferred clearance of goods from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
Ganyane allegedly proceeded to Beitbridge and provisionally cleared the vehicles using report order forms.
After clearing the alleged vehicles, Ganyane advised Tapfuma, who instructed him to hand the vehicles over to Vongaishe Mupereri, who at that time was National Assembly Member for Mbizo constituency.
The court heard that on April 20, 2018, Tapfuma made an application to the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet requesting for duty-free certificates in the name of the President’s Department which were issued.
Tapfuma allegedly applied for duty exemption for the vehicles at Zimra which was granted. He then registered the vehicles at Central Vehicles Registry under the name of the President’s Department and started using the vehicles in his personal capacity.
The alleged vehicles were liable to pay duty amounting to US$3 180.
The court heard that on the second and third counts, Tapfuma allegedly purchased an additional of five personal vehicles between June and August last year from South Africa.