HARARE – Suspended Harare mayor Jacob Mafume was finally freed on $40,000 bail by a High Court judge Friday after languishing in remand prison for a month.
Mafume was arrested on December 14 last year on allegations of trying to bribe a key witness in his pending criminal abuse of office case.
High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero released Mafume saying a lower court had misdirected itself in denying him bail.
“The judge ruled that the lower court erred by denying my client bai,” Mafume’s attorney Tonderai Bhatasara told ZimLive. “A full judgment will be made available later.”
As part of his bail conditions the MDC Alliance politician was ordered to report to police every Friday, reside at his given address and not to interfere with witnesses.
Mafume had battled poor health for weeks in jail. But his lawyer told ZimLive he was in high spirits after securing his freedom.
“He is feeling good because of the release. He has to be checked by his doctor because he was staying in a congested cell,” Bhatasara said.
“I am thrilled that we persuaded the court to agree with us that the Magistrate Court misdirected itself by denying my client bail.”
While Mafume was happy to go home, it was a different story for his party colleagues, Job Sikhala and Fadzai Mahere, who were remanded in custody.
Sikhala, who is charged with peddling falsehoods together with Mahere and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, was denied bail by Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna who ruled that the MDC Alliance vice-chairperson was a frequent offender.
The three are accused of “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State” through social media after allegedly posting that a Harare police officer had fatally struck a nine-month-old baby strapped to its mother’s back with a baton following a viral street video.
Nduna said the evidence against Sikhala was overwhelming, adding that he had also not helped his case after allegedly boasting about having been arrested 65 times.
“This cannot be used to prove that he is a good candidate for bail but rather shows he has a propensity to commit more offences, ” the magistrate said.
“Boasting that he had been arrested 65 times since 2000 is enough ground that he has the propensity of committing other offences while on bail hence remanding him in custody to the time of his trial is the only remedy.”
Sikhala was remanded to February 18.
Another magistrate threw out Mahere’s challenge against her placement on remand. She will appear in court Monday for a bail ruling.
Prosecutor Charles Muchemwa opposed the MDC Alliance spokesperson’s bail application arguing that her false statement, allegedly posted on Facebook, was made with the intent to promote public disorder.
He said if freed, Mahere will abscond and evade justice.
Muchemwa also submitted that Mahere is facing a serious offence which attracts a custodial sentence of up to 20 years.
“Granting her bail will trivialise the offence,” he argued in court. “The accused is a woman of means and if admitted to bail she can use that advantage to abscond the court.”