High Court judge Justice Herbert Chitapi yesterday recused himself from hearing the case in which jailed Bikita West legislator Munyaradzi Kereke is seeking release on bail pending appeal.Kereke is serving a 10-year prison term for raping his 13-year-old niece at gunpoint.
For professional reasons, the judge saw it fit to refer the matter to a colleague.
The judge considered the fact that he had represented Kereke in the same matter before he joined the bench.
Justice Chitapi was once Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe lawyer at the time Kereke was advisor to the then Governor Dr Gideon Gono. The judge and Kereke were once co-directors in some companies before the former’s appointment to the bench.
“I am not able to deal with this matter. I have to recuse myself. Apparently, I was involved in this matter as the applicant’s counsel. My law firm was the one that represented him up until the State declined prosecution.
“Under the circumstances, it will not be proper that I deal with this matter,” said the judge.
He deferred the fresh bail hearing to Tuesday before Justice Owen Tagu.
Kereke, through Advocate Thabani Mpofu, launched a fresh freedom bid following the intervention of his estranged wife, who offered to accommodate him and to fund a house arrest pending determination of his appeal.
He is seeking to be released on bail pending determination of his appeal against both conviction and sentence.
Alternatively, he is seeking an order placing him under house arrest at his own expense. The estranged wife, Ms Elizabeth Sibanda, has also undertaken to surrender her title deeds to her Mandara property as surety to secure his freedom.
Last month, Justice Happias Zhou threw out Kereke’s initial bail application on the basis that the politician was not a proper candidate for temporary freedom.
In the same judgment, the judge also indicated that Kereke’s prospects of success on appeal were high.
In the fresh application, Kereke submitted that Ms Sibanda had offered her Mandara property measuring 1, 1 hectares as surety. Another couple Mr Arnold Chidhakwa and his wife Barbara, offered another property as surety, Stand 694 Bannockburn Township of Stand 1 Bannockburn, Harare.
The lawyers submitted that Ms Sibanda was prepared to fund any overhead expenses incurred in connection with a house arrest at her property Number 31 Ness Road, Mandara.
The developments, Kereke argued, constituted changed circumstances warranting his freedom pending finalisation of his appeal. Regional magistrate Mr Noel Mupeiwa sentenced Kereke to 14 years behind bars but set aside four years for five years on condition that he does not commit a similar offence within that period.
The court, however, acquitted him on charges of indecently assaulting the victim’s elder sister.
Kereke still insists that the charges he was convicted of were fabricated by the complainants’ maternal grandparents after he refused to pay their school fees arrears, but Mr Mupeiwa said at the time the case was reported to the police, the arrears had already been settled. Herald