By Tichaona Sibanda
15 March 2011
Energy and Power Development Minister, Elton Mangoma, was on Tuesday granted $5,000 bail, ordered to surrender his passport and told not to speak to witnesses.
But one of the state witnesses is his permanent secretary, Justin Mupamhanga, a person he deals with on a daily basis in the ministry. The two are certain to be in contact when Mangoma resumes his ministerial duties on Wednesday.
Mangoma, a close ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, appeared at the High Court in Harare in handcuffs and wearing green prison garb, a scene that left his wife in tears.
Several senior members of Tsvangirai’s party attended the hearing, including Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, plus cabinet ministers Nelson Chamisa, Tapiwa Mashakada and Eric Matinenga.
Mangoma, who is also the MDC-T deputy treasurer-general, was arrested last week Thursday at his government offices.
The police charged him with abusing public office, a charge that stems from an alleged breach of tender regulations in the purchase of five million litres of diesel from a South African company. He has since been indicted for trial at the High Court on 28th March.
Mangoma was being held at the Harare Remand Prison and our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us state prosecutors opposed bail, alleging Mangoma was likely to abscond.
But High Court Judge Samuel Kudya dismissed this claim. He also said the State had no tangible facts to warrant Mangoma’s conviction, a position that suggests the state has a very weak case against the minister.
‘From what the judge said in the court, I think the prosecution team will have to move mountains to secure a conviction because he exposed their case as weak and with little facts to suggest a crime was committed.
‘The Judge even alluded to the fact that when Mangoma bypassed the tender procedures, he did so in the public interest to speed up the procurement of fuel which was in short supply at that particular time,’ Muchemwa said.
Mangoma’s arrest last week drew an angry reaction from Tsvangirai, who called for new elections and said it was time for a ‘divorce’ in the two-year-old unity government with Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai is currently on a regional diplomatic offensive to seek greater support from the SADC regional bloc, following an intense blitz on his party officials and activists by ZANU PF.