Supreme Court Maintains That Minister Kagonye Is Guilty
2 April 2024
Spread the love

Supreme Court Upholds Conviction and Sentence of Former Minister Petronella Kagonye

In a definitive ruling that underscores the rigidity of legal accountability, the Supreme Court has denied former Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Petronella Kagonye’s final appeal against her conviction and sentence related to the misappropriation of 20 laptops. These laptops, donated by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) for educational purposes in Goromonzi South constituency, were diverted from their intended recipients under Kagonye’s stewardship.

Despite her release from prison in May last year, after serving 10 and two-thirds months of a 16-month sentence (discounted for good behavior), Kagonye’s appeal was more about clearing her name than altering her sentence. The Supreme Court’s rejection of her appeal leaves her with a lifelong criminal record for theft of trust property—a charge reflective of corruption given the circumstances—and a suspended one-year term looming over any future criminal dishonesty.

The heart of Kagonye’s appeal lay in two main arguments: a challenge against the legitimacy of her conviction based on an asserted lack of intent to commit theft, and a contention that her sentence was excessively harsh. These appeals sought to question the High Court’s affirmation of both her conviction and sentence, probing whether her mental state during the commission of the crime was adequately established and if the trial court’s sentence was justifiably endorsed by the higher courts.

Justice Susan Mavangira, representing the Supreme Court’s judgment alongside Justices George Chiweshe and Samuel Kudya, addressed these concerns head-on. The justices collectively found that the trial court’s decision to discredit Kagonye’s testimony—deemed “filled with inconsistencies”—was unassailable. The court thereby confirmed her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, leaving no ground for the High Court or the Supreme Court to overturn the findings of the trial magistrate, Mrs. Vongai Guwuriro.

Kagonye’s original trial resulted in a 36-month prison sentence, from which 12 months were suspended on the condition of good behavior upon release, and an additional eight months were suspended contingent on her repaying US$10,000, equivalent to the value of the laptops. The High Court, upon reviewing her initial appeal, even opined that the sentence might be considered lenient, considering the gravity of the offense.

This Supreme Court ruling not only closes Kagonye’s chapter of legal appeals but also serves as a potent reminder of the consequences of misuse of office and public trust. The decision illustrates the judiciary’s firm stance on holding public officials to account, emphasizing the importance of integrity in the stewardship of resources intended for public benefit. Through this judgment, the courts have reinforced the message that those in positions of power are not beyond the reach of law, especially when it comes to acts of corruption and misappropriation.- ZIANA