Poison-fears Mphoko on the run after high-speed escape from court

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BULAWAYO – Former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko is on the run after avoiding arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), an official said. Mphoko had been summoned to appear at the Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court on corruption allegations, and had given undertakings he would attend, said ZACC spokesman John Makamure. He is charged with obstruction of justice and criminal abuse of office over allegations be sprung free officials of the roads agency, ZINARA, from a police station in 2016 while he was Vice President. The former Vice President, ousted with former President Robert Mugabe in a November 2017 military coup, did go to the Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court, said Makamure, but appeared to have a change of mind. “He was at court and when he saw ZACC officials, he drove off at high speed on the ridiculous excuse that officials wanted to poison him,” Makamure told ZimLive. “He is now on the run and ZACC officials are engaged in efforts to apprehend him.” Mphoko’s lawyer Zibusiso Ncube told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 that he met ZACC officials early Monday and they agreed that Mphoko would present himself to court. Prosecutors were not going to oppose bail, they had agreed. But he said when they arrived outside court, he was approached by ZACC officers he had met earlier informing him that there had been a change of plan, and Mphoko was now expected to present himself at the Bulawayo Central Police Station to sign his “warned and cautioned” statement. “That was a dramatic shift,” Ncube said. “One does not need to go to a police station to sign a warned and cautioned statement. The client was already concerned, he fears that these people want to kill him. “I must emphasise that the client has no fear of going to court. We are prepared to have a trial if we are given the charge sheet, even tomorrow we are ready. We told ZACC we are ready. If it’s justice they really seek, we told them let’s get in court and conduct the trial. All they need to do is summon us and say your trial starts on such-such a day and we will be there, whether in Harare or Bulawayo. “The client fears that if he leaves court, and he is in cells – whether prison cells, court cells or police cells – they will inject him with poison. That’s his fear.” Ncube said he had written to ZACC chair Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo stating that Mphoko was not afraid of appearing in court or assisting investigations, since he had already given his statement. “I told her that the change of goal-posts after our earlier agreement does not inspire confidence. It only heightens Mr Mphoko’s fears of foul play,” Ncube added. “I told the ZACC chair that Mphoko is not fleeing the court’s jurisdiction, but he wants security.” Ncube said the poison fears stemmed from information that Mphoko received from intelligence sources. “He was informed that when the ZACC officers were leaving Harare, they were instructed to pick up a bag of potatoes, and use that bag of potatoes. That’s what the client has told me,” Ncube said.

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