Nqobile Tshili/Mashudu Netsianda, Chronicle Reporters
FORMER Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko, is on the run after dramatically fleeing from Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) officers who were set to arrest him in Bulawayo yesterday.
The former Vice President’s movie style escape follows attempts by Zacc officers to take him to Bulawayo Central Police Station to slap him with abuse of office charges for an offence he allegedly committed during his tenure in office.
Mphoko had initially agreed to surrender himself to the Zacc officers at the police station but made a U-turn and sped off, leaving the investigating officers shell-shocked.
Mphoko is being accused of criminal abuse of office after he unlawfully instructed some junior police officers to release from cells, former Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) acting chief executive, Moses Juma.
Juma was being charged with criminal abuse of office.
Mphoko, who reportedly resisted arrest on Friday at his home in Douglasdale, yesterday agreed to meet Zacc officers at Bulawayo Central Police Station.
His lawyers had gone to Zacc offices to submit his statement but the investigators demanded that he must appear before them.
That is when they agreed to meet at a neutral venue – a police station in the city.
Yesterday afternoon, Mphoko indicated that he was now on his way to the police station for recording of his warned and cautioned statement.
Upon arrival at the station, Mphoko then drove off at high speed.
Zacc spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure yesterday told The Chronicle that Mphoko was now a fugitive with anti-corruption officials pursuing him.
“He (Mphoko) ran away and as we speak he is on the run and Zacc officials are on the ground looking for him. The officials went to court, but he ran away. In fact, they went to a police post after having indicated that he (Mphoko) was not comfortable with our investigators,” he said.
“When our officials got there, he ran away and he is a fugitive of justice and Zacc officials are on the ground hunting for him.”
However, Mphoko’s lawyer, Mr Zibusiso Ncube, yesterday denied that his client was a fugitive, insisting that he was ready to stand trial.
He said the attempt by Zacc officers to arrest his client was contrary to their initial agreement when the former VP was supposed to just come and sign his warned and cautioned statement at Tredgold Building.
“My client is not a fugitive and he is actually prepared to have his day in court. My client had indicated that he wanted to have his warned and cautioned statement recorded at Tredgold Building where we then agreed to meet,” he said.
Mr Ncube said his client later raised fears of abduction in the event that they took him to the police station.
“If you look at the circumstances of the case, my client’s fears of being abducted seem to be confirmed in the sense that on Friday an official from Zacc called and I told him I was at a church camp meeting out of Bulawayo. I told him that I would be back on Sunday and we agreed to meet on Monday.
“I was then later disappointed to learn that they stormed my client’s house and tried to arrest him contrary to what we had agreed on,” he said.
Mr Ncube said on arrival at Tredgold Building, they were accosted by two officials from Zacc.
“When I went to Tredgold with my client we were accosted by two Zacc officials and they indicated to us that there was a change of plan and that we were now supposed to go to Bulawayo Central Police Station, which was a betrayal of sincerity,” he said.
Mr Ncube said he is now in the process of writing a letter informing the Zacc chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo about what transpired.
“I am working on a letter addressed to the Zacc chairperson because social media is now awash with reports that my client is refusing to co-operate, which is wrong. He simply wants his safety guaranteed and my client is willing to be given a trial date depending on Zacc’s readiness,” he said.
Allegations against Mr Mphoko are that in 2016, while he was still Vice President, he stormed Avondale Police Station to release Juma.
Mphoko, during that time, threatened to beat junior police officers at the station if they failed to comply with his demands.
Juma was later re-arrested and sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of abuse of office.
According to court papers, on May 6, 2016, Zacc received a report of allegations of fraud and criminal abuse of duty against Zinara officials.
Investigations that ensued resulted in the arrest of Davison Norupiri and Juma. The two were charged with criminal abuse of duty as defined in section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and their warned and cautioned statements were recorded on July 12, 2016.
After the arrest, Juma and Norupiri were taken to Avondale Police Station the following day pending their appearance in court.
On the same day at around 6PM, Mphoko, who was at the time the Acting President, stormed the police station and ordered the immediate release of Juma and Norupiri from lawful police custody. The officer-in-charge complied with Mphoko’s order and released the two men before Mphoko drove away with them in his car.
It was stated that Mphoko acted in manner that was inconsistent with his duties as a public officer, which was in violation of section 106 of the constitution.
The ex-Vice President resisted arrest on Friday at his Douglasdale house after dramatically refusing to co-operate with Zacc arresting officers whilst his wife Laurinda and daughter Siduduzo ordered the officials out.
A video of the incident has since gone viral. — @nqotshili; @mashnets.