By A Correspondent- Defence lawyers on Thursday chipped away at prosecution claims that Harare mayor Jacob Mafume tried to bribe a key witness in his impending corruption trial.
A senior police officer was forced to admit under cross-examination that Mafume had just US$65 when he was arrested, and an Econet number he was allegedly communicating with to set up the bribe was not registered to the witness.
Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna postponed his ruling on Mafume’s bail application to Friday.
The National Prosecuting Authority led by Constance Ngombengombe and Kudzai Chigwedere read out the latest charges against Mafume, accusing him of offering witness Edgar Dzehonye US$1,500 to alter his testimony.
The prosecution alleged Mafume contacted Dzehonye, the principal housing officer for the City of Harare, on December 12 and asked to meet him the following day at Fife Avenue Shopping Centre.
The conversation allegedly took place on a WhatsApp voice call.
At midday on December 12, it is alleged Mafume called Dzehonye once more and indicated that the new venue for their meeting was Mega 11 Leisure Centre in Logan Park, Hatfield.
The two men allegedly met at the Leisure Centre but Mafume – driving a silver Toyota Belta – “indicated that the venue was overcrowded” and moved the meeting to Avondale Shopping Centre at 5PM.
Prosecutors say during a meeting lasting one and a half hours inside Dzehonye’s vehicle, a white Honda Fit, Mafume “persuaded Dzehonye to testify in his favour in his impending trial” where he is accused of leaning on council officials to grant his sister and his secretary housing stands in Westlea suburb sometime in March, without following formal procedures.
During the meeting, it is claimed Mafume told Dzehonye that Addmore Nhekairo, Harare’s director of housing and also a witness in his trial, had “agreed to assist by giving a favourable testimony in court during trial.”
At the end of their meeting, says the prosecution, Mafume offered to pay Dzehonye US$1,500 the next day.
At around 1PM on December 14, Mafume was arrested at Strathaven Shopping Centre. The NPA says he was inside Dzehonye’s Honda Fit and had offered him US$1,000 with the balance to be paid later that day.
“The state applies for placement of the accused on remand on a charge of defeating the course of justice, alternatively contempt of court,” Ngombengombe told Nduna.
“The state is opposed to bail and will rely mainly on two grounds: that the accused is likely to abscond, and that he will interfere with witnesses if granted bail.”
Ngombengombe called the investigating officer Superintendent Joseph Sirihwindi of Police General Headquarters to the witness stand.
“The accused person was seen with one of key witnesses in a case for which he is on bail. He was subsequently arrested while he was seated in the witness vehicle,” Sirihwindi testified.
“Bail is opposed because there are high chances he will escape and interfere with witnesses, since he has already shown the propensity of doing so. Just three or four days after he was granted bail, he was already interfering with witnesses knowing that he was not supposed to do so.”
Asked whom he contacted over the mobile phone or interfered with directly, Sirihwindi said it was Dzehonye.
“He called him, made an appointment to meet and they did meet. The witness and the arresting detail said so. We also have evidence that he was persuading Admore Nhekairo to meet him.”
For Mafume, Advocate Thabani Mpofu assisted by Tonderai Bhatasara proposed bail of Z$30,000 with conditions including: not to interfere with witnesses including Edgar Dzehonye, continue to reside at his given address and continue to report at the police Anti-Corruption Unit once a week.
Mpofu asked Sirihwindi how much was found on Mafume, or his car, and the investigating officer indicated US$65.
The lawyer also challenged Sirihwindi to tell the court who owned the Econet number 0772616889, on which the supposed calls to meet were made. The police officer said he had not verified, although indicating that Mafume told him it belonged to one Getrude Dumba.
“So, at this stage you have no objective evidence to show that the accused called Dzehonye,” Mpofu quipped.
The lawyer said Mafume was called by Dumba and went to her vehicle.
“She was seated in the driver’s seat and there was no-one in the passenger seat. The car has tinted back seat windows. He didn’t see anyone. He talked to Getrude Dumba while outside the car, and at that stage your officers came to him,” Mpofu told Sirihwindi.
Mpofu said Dumba was at the scene when Mafume was arrested. It was also not denied that the Econet number Mafume was communicating with is registered to Dumba, the lawyer said.
He accused the police of trying to set-up Mafume, who is also a lawyer.
Mpofu said the police claims that Mafume was going to hand over money were not backed by evidence.
“Upon his arrest, he had US$65, and not the US$1,000 he was allegedly going to give away,” the lawyer said as he asked magistrate Nduna to free Mafume on bail.
Sirihwindi said he could not comment on the issue of money, because he was not present when Mafume was arrested.
Nduna will give his ruling on the bail application Friday