Zanu PF apologist Fidelis Fengu, who was jailed for an effective four-months over extortion charges, yesterday breathed a sigh of relief after High Court judge Justice Garainesu Mawadze granted him a $300 bail pending appeal, ending his two-week long prison nightmare.
The ruling party activist, was two weeks ago convicted by Harare magistrate Elijah Makomo of swindling a Chinese national Shu Xiaofeng of $2 000 in a botched resident permit deal.
Initially, the magistrate slapped Fengu with a total of 12-months imprisonment, but eight months of the sentence were suspended on condition of good behaviour and restitution.
Last Thursday, Fengu, through his lawyer Rungano Mahuni, filed an application arguing the magistrate erred when he made his determination that resulted in his incarceration.
Fengu said Makomo had erred by entering and recording a plea of guilty without adequately making an enquiry as to whether he had admitted to all the essential elements of the offence.
“The learned magistrate (Makomo) erred grossly by accepting and recording the appellant (Fengu) plea of guilty without canvassing the essential elements on the record as required by the law,” Mahuni told Justice Mawadze, urging him to grant his client bail.
“The court (Makomo) grossly misdirected itself by entering a plea of guilty without satisfying itself that the pleader (Fengu) was aware of the essential elements on the record that the pleader was admitting to.”
Mahuni also said the magistrate grossly erred by not giving reasons for eschewing other available forms of punishment in light of the mitigatory factors apparent in the matter.
“The magistrate court misdirected itself by passing a sentence which by all standards inspires a sense of shock as abhorred by the law and the trite principles of sentencing,” he added saying his client was a suitable candidate for bail.
“The learned magistrate erred on a point of law by not considering the principles of sentencing as enunciated in our law with regard to first offenders and the procedure on plea of guilty.”-Newsday