Minister Ignatius Chombo says his arrest and civil imprisonment for defying court orders was now imminent and has instructed his lawyers to file an urgent application to stop the Sheriff from executing the judgment.
The Sheriff of the High Court is armed with a writ to commit the minister to prison for 90 days, and failed to arrest him twice last week as he was attending Cabinet and Politburo meetings.
Minister Chombo argues in his application that he has since purged his contempt and that his arrest will be a violation of his right to liberty.
Justice Amy Tsanga last year slapped the minister with the prison term in a case in which a Mutare businessman Mr Tendai Blessing Mangwiro was seeking to recover his $1,5 million and $78 900 separately confiscated by the police in 2008.
The money was unlawfully confiscated upon the arrest of Mr Mangwiro on criminal charges before the court cleared him of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Justice Tsanga found the minister guilty of contempt of court for failing to ensure payment of the $78 900 to Mr Mangwiro in terms of a court order and jailed him for three months with labour.
The judge said the sentence could be wholly suspended if Minister Chombo complied with the court orders he defied.
In the urgent chamber application, Minister Chombo, through his lawyers, indicated that he was aware that the Sheriff was hunting him but the arrest would be a violation of his rights.
“Applicant’s arrest and lodging unto prison is imminent in circumstances where such arrest and lodging would therefore amount to a violation of his constitutional rights.
“There can be no doubt that the applicant’s constitutionally guaranteed rights will be violated by such an arrest,” reads part of the application.
The minister argues that he has since purged his contempt.
“The applicant has, as a fact, purged his contempt and provided evidence thereof to all the respondents.
“In any event, applicant has since complied with the court orders in question and the attempts by the respondents to have him arrested are malicious in the circumstances,” reads the application.
“It is quite clear that the applicant’s arrest and lodging into prison by the first respondent is imminent. Two attempts to arrest him have already been made and it was only fortuitous that he could not be arrested.
“Applicant’s liberty is therefore at stake in circumstances where he has already done what he is obligated to do as a nominal defendant in terms of the State Liabilities Act,” reads the certificate of urgency.
In a founding affidavit deposed by the director in the Attorney-General’s Civil Division, Mrs Fortune Chimbaru, the Sheriff unsuccessfully attempted to arrest the minister twice last week.
“First respondent (Sheriff) went on to say that he had attempted to arrest the applicant on Tuesday 18 July 2017 but had been unable to do so as the applicant was attending a Cabinet meeting.
“He (Sheriff) thereafter made a further attempt on Wednesday 19 July 2017 but was again unsuccessful as he was informed that applicant was attending a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling party,” reads the affidavit.
Mr Mangwiro’s cash was seized by police and held as an exhibit, but when the matter was finalised the money could not be accounted for. He then approached the court seeking reimbursement and several court orders were granted in his favour, but Minister Chombo allegedly persistently refused to budge.
In the $78 000 case that resulted in the contempt of court order, Mr Mangwiro was charged with theft and tried by a regional court.
When he was acquitted on January 18, 2013, police had unlawfully released the $78 900 seized from Mr Mangwiro and Z$46 135 000 000 to one Andre Nsaka Nsaka.
The cash and some motor vehicles, were in fact, not exhibits before the regional court and that there was no basis for them to be released to that person.
Mr Mangwiro then applied for the release of his cash. Using the prevailing Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe rates, the Zimbabwe dollar component of Z$46 135 000 000 was converted to US$1 537 833.
The High Court initially ordered the minister to pay back the $78 900 but did not issue an order in respect of the Zimbabwe dollar component.
Mr Mangwiro appealed to the Supreme Court which ruled that he must also be paid the Zimbabwe dollars in United States dollars but referred the matter back to the High Court for quantification.
The High Court then agreed with Mr Mangwiro and ordered the minister to pay US$1,5 million on top of the US$78 900. state media