Tue, 09 Mar 2021

Mayor of Zimbabwe capital bailed in graft case

16 Jan 2021, 04:41 GMT+10

  • Jacob Mafume was released on bail after spending a month behind bars.
  • Mafume was arrested after allegedly distributing plots of land to friends and relatives in 2010.
  • His lawyer said he was suffering from coronavirus symptoms.

The mayor of Zimbabwe's capital Harare was released Friday on bail after a month behind bars over graft allegations, his lawyer said, in a case the opposition has denounced as politically motivated.

Jacob Mafume, a prominent member of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, was arrested in November for allegedly doling out plots of land to friends and relatives while a city councillor in 2010.

"The mayor has been granted bail," lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara told AFP, adding that his client was suffering from coronavirus symptoms which had deteriorated over the past week.

Mafume "has to be checked by his doctor because he was staying in a congested cell," Bhatasara said.

The mayor was bailed a first time after two weeks in custody, but re-arrested shortly after over allegations of witness tampering.

A high court granted Mafume bail again on Friday, overturning a previous court ruling that kept him behind bars.

He has been charged with criminal abuse of office and defeating the course of justice, which he denies.

As part of the bail conditions, Mafume is expected to report to police once a week, remain in his registered home and not interfere with witnesses.

His detention sparked anger among his supporters, who accuse the regime of unjustly targeting political opponents.

MDC Alliance officials and human rights activists had been lobbying for Mafume's release.

Harare has been governed by opposition figures for more than a decade, and Mafume's predecessor Hebert Gomba was also arrested on allegations of criminal abuse of office.

Gomba was released on bail in August and barred from resuming his mayoral functions.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has grown increasingly intolerant towards dissent since he took office in 2018.

Opposition figures and rights activists easily land behind bars, and are sometimes abducted by hitmen believed to be operating on behalf of the regime.

Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and MDC spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere are both currently in jail for tweeting a video showing alleged police violence.

Source: News24

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