Former Urban Councils Minister, Ignatius Chombo is probably breathing a sigh of relief after a Harare magistrate removed six charges of corruption against him from the court’s roster. These corruption charges were levelled against him after he was arrested by the military during the so-called “operation restore legacy” that toppled former president Robert Mugabe.

These charges were stayed by the Supreme court which ruled that the arrest and detention by the military were in violation of Chombo’s constitutional rights. Harare magistrate Stanford Mambanje who was overseeing the cases had no choice but to comply with the Supreme court’s view.

Catch and release

Despite much talk about how they were against corruption the government (or second republic as they prefer to be known at times) has failed miserably when it comes to fighting the big players accused of corruption. Often cases take a very familiar track of events. First, a “bigwig” is accused of corruption in state media, promptly arrested and accused of all manner of heinous crimes and paraded for all to see. Then the case is taken to court where an anaemic performance is put up by the prosecution.

The suspect is either incarcerated for a short time then eventually granted bail or granted bail immediately. Schoolboy errors are made by the prosecution who seem not enthusiastic when it comes to prosecuting suspects and sometimes meekly agree to bail. Then cases are postponed and eventually thrown out of court.

Cynical members of the public have come up with an apt term for the government’s efforts. They call it catch and release. It’s hard to argue this is not what happened in the Chombo case. There was ample opportunity to go for the juglar. In fact, Mr Chombo has faced other seemingly clear cut cases of corruption before and come out unscathed.

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