A Mutare businessman who has been battling to recover his money that was illegally taken by police in 2008 has upped the ante against Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and the police force by applying for a court order to seize government property.
Although Tendai Blessing Mangwiro was acquitted by the High Court way back in 2012 on the charges that he faced then, he is still fighting tooth and nail to recover more than $1,5 million that was seized by police during his arrest — despite the courts ordering the release of his money.
Chombo was last week slapped with a 90-day prison sentence after he failed to facilitate the release of part of the money, $78 900 — with Mangwiro separately also winning another High Court order compelling the minister to further release $1,5 million which was also forcibly taken from him by police at the time of the businessman’s arrest.
This has now forced Mangwiro to approach the High Court, challenging the State Liabilities Act — which his lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara argues Chombo and the police are abusing to avoid complying with court orders.
“This statutory provision is illusionary. When court orders come out, they call for immediate compliance. Ordinary citizens will have no remedy even after being granted the remedy,” Zhuwarara contends.
High Court judge Edith Mushore reserved judgment in the matter yesterday.
In effect, Mangwiro wants the State Liabilities Act to be declared unconstitutional and invalid because it prevents the attachment of State property.
“I am left with no other legal recourse except to approach this court to have Section 5 of the State Liabilities Act … declared unconstitutional as this is the only reason that is precluding me from having my court order satisfied.
Although Section 5 (2) allows respondent (Chombo) to cause payment to be made out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, however, the same Section as it stands does not positively oblige the State to comply with orders as it should.
“There is no mechanism which is precise and effective as regards to the satisfaction of court orders,” Mangwiro argues further.
Happy Magadure, who appeared on behalf of the State, countered saying the State Liabilities Act was acceptable in a democratic society.
He said government property belonged to citizens and could not be attached for the benefit of individuals. He also said the government did not currently have money to comply with the order, as it was common cause that it was even failing to pay its workers.
He also argued that if the court was to rule in Mangwiro’s favour, it would spell disaster for the government considering that there could be more people who had similar judgments that had not been executed.
But Mushore asked Magadure to think of a civilian debtor whose property would be attached despite pleading poverty, adding that Mangwiro had done everything that he could, using a lot of money on lawyers, to get his money back without success.
In the case, police — who are answerable to Chombo — seized $78 900 and a further equivalent of $1,5 million from Mangwiro in 2008, after arresting him on theft charges, with the cops failing to return the money which was held as an exhibit following his subsequent acquittal in 2012.
Chombo said last week that police were in the process of releasing the $78 000, while at the same time writing to the ministry of Finance requesting for the $1,5 million to comply with the separate High Court order compelling him to release that money to Mangwiro before the expiry of 14 days.
But police were accused of harassing and intimidating Mangwiro on Friday, as he pressed with his bid to have Chombo jailed following the minister’s failure to facilitate the return of his money.