Zimbabwe ex-minister Chombo in court on corruption charges


Zimbabwe ex-minister Chombo in court on corruption charges

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The former finance minister (centre) seen arriving at court

Zimbabwe's former finance minister, who was taken into custody by the military after it took power, has appeared in court in Harare on corruption charges.

A lawyer for Ignatius Chombo said the ex-minister had been beaten in custody, although the police have denied this.

Mr Chombo faces corruption charges for alleged offences that date back more than a decade.

He will be detained until Monday when the court will rule on whether he should be bailed.

Separately, the high court has ruled that the military takeover – which saw former President Robert Mugabe placed under house arrest on 14 November – was legal.

"The actions of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to stop the usurping of power by those close to former president Robert Mugabe are constitutional," the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation quotes the court as saying.

The court also ruled "null and void" the sacking by Mr Mugabe of then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa earlier this month.

The military takeover was widely seen as a reaction to moves by Mr Mugabe to ensure his wife, Grace, succeeded him, and against the sacking of Mr Mnangagwa, who became president on Friday.

The high court said its ruling would prevent non-elected individuals exercising powers only open to those who have been elected.

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But the ruling has raised concerns that the military is exercising undue influence over the judiciary.

Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, warned of a "strange, captured judiciary".

Skip Twitter post by @dewamavhinga

Breaking: #Zimbabwe High Court on 24 Nov, day #Mnangagwa was sworn in, issued two incredible judgments – 1.) The Military takeover of #Mugabe's gvt was Constitutional, & 2.) #Mugabe's firing of #Mnangagwa from as VP in gvt was null & void. Strange, captured judiciary❓??

— Dewa Mavhinga (@dewamavhinga) November 25, 2017


End of Twitter post by @dewamavhinga

Former Finance Minister Chombo appeared in court attired in a blue suit and chatting to police guards as he faced charges stemming from his time as a local government minister more than 10 years ago.

His lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, said Mr Chombo had received hospital treatment for injuries sustained while in military detention.

The court cases capped a tumultuous week in Zimbabwe, which saw Mr Mugabe resign on Tuesday in a letter read out to MPs who were about to start impeaching him.

His resignation was greeted by widespread celebration on the streets of Harare and followed on Friday by the swearing-in as president of Mr Mnangagwa.

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Media captionPresident Mnangagwa called Robert Mugabe "a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader"

At Harare's 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium, Mr Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was now "ready and willing for a steady re-engagement with all the nations of the world".

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"Key choices will have to be made to attract foreign direct investment to tackle high-levels of unemployment while transforming our economy," he said.

He also praised Mr Mugabe, calling him one of the "founding fathers" of our nation and counselled against "vengeful retribution" against those who had been ousted.

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