HARARE regional magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna is next week expected to make a ruling on a fresh bail application on changed circumstances made by Henrietta Rushwaya’s accomplices in the gold smuggling cases they are facing.
Douglas Shoko, Paul Chimhungu, Stephen Tserai and Raphios Mufandauya will know their fate on January 27. In their applications, the quartet argued that a lot of time had lapsed since they were remanded in custody pending investigations, which they said were not complete despite police promising to end investigations by November 30.
Through their lawyers, they also told the court that there were travel restrictions brought by the national lockdown, which addresses the State’s fears that they will abscond.
Shoko and Chimhungu claimed had been suspended from executing their duties as police officers, which means they will not be able to interfere with witnesses.
The State led by Mr Lancelot Mutsokoti opposed their applications. He asserts that there were no changed circumstances as they had failed to show any changed circumstances.
“The first changed circumstances alleged by the accused is the effluxion of time. While it is accepted that the accused persons have been in custody for over 75 days, it is submitted that significant progress has been made towards bringing them to trial.
“Investigations are now complete and the docket has been forwarded to the National Prosecuting Authority for perusal and setting of a trial date. It is expected that the accused persons will probably be furnished with a trial date on their next remand appearance,” he said.
Mr Mutsokoti submitted that the national lockdown brought about by the new wave of Covid-19 was not a changed circumstance that warrants their release on bail. He argued that freeing the duo on bail will compromise the reasons they were initially denied bail.
Responding to Shoko and Chimhungu’s contention that they had been suspended from their duties and could not afford to interfere with witnesses, the State said the accused were still members of the police and retain their ranks and capable of interfering with witnesses.
Mr Mutsikoti added that Chimhungu failed to furnish the State with any documentation that proves he has been suspended from work.
He said the mere fact that Rushwaya and Ali Mohammad were freed on bail does not take away their charges hence the need to keep them in custody pending trial.
Shoko and Chimhungu had argued that a long time had lapsed since they were remanded in custody pending trial and that police had failed to abide by the date they had promised to complete investigations.
They also submitted that the new Covid-19 lockdown measures would restrict their movements and that they have since been suspended from which takes away State’s fears of interfering with witnesses.
Another suspect in the gold smuggling case, Gift Karanda, will remain in custody a bit longer after the court refused to take his bail submissions in his application because of some administrative issues.