Former Director of State Residences, Douglas Tapfuma who was recently arrested on allegations of using the influence of his office to import over 100 cars, duty free, under the pretext that they belonged to the Office of the President and Cabinet was last Friday denied bail by the High Court.
Justice Philda Muzofa said Tapfuma’s chances of being convicted and incarcerated over criminal abuse of office charges are inevitable.
In his bail appeal before High Court, Tapfuma dismissed claims that he is a flight risk arguing that he will not be given a custodial sentence if he is convicted considering that the offence also attracts a fine as an alternative form of punishment.
In her determination, Justice Philda Muzofa did warned Tapfuma that he is likely to face a custodial sentence.
“It is the abuse of his official position to import vehicles in the name of the State and use of State resources to his benefit. This is the conduct that, if proved is taken into account, the total prejudice is an additional consideration but not the determinant factor in sentencing upon conviction,” Justice Muzofa said.
“It is the use of the State machinery to his benefit that is punishable. Apparently, what the State alleged was not denied. Counsel insisted that the process was above board, it was approved by the Chief Secretary (Misheck Sibanda). That would not absolve him (Tapfuma) if the vehicles were for his personal use.”
“The penalty provision provides for a fine not exceeding level thirteen or imprisonment up to fifteen years. It seems the State has a solid case so far. Clearly this is a serious matter which is likely to attract imprisonment. This is where the ordinary human inclinations come into play, the higher the probabilities of a conviction, the greater the incentive to abscond,” the judge said.
“At the time of arrest, the appellant (Tapfuma) was still employed in the office. As investigations come to finality he is now aware of the witnesses who were his subordinates. The court cannot ignore the fact that this is a senior government employee who to some extent has influence. I did not hear any indication that he had been relieved of his duties but there was some submission before the magistrate that he had been moved to head another department…accordingly, the appeal against refusal of bail is dismissed,” she said.