Zimbabwe energy minister granted bail

2011-03-15 22:36

Harare - Zimbabwe Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, charged with abuse of office over a fuel purchase, was on Tuesday granted $5 000 bail in a case that has strained the fragile unity government.

"The state's case appears to be weak," High Court Judge Samuel Kudya said in his ruling. Mangoma's "actions were prompted by a national crisis, his well-meaning response may prove mitigatory", the judge said.

"I am therefore satisfied that the applicant is not a flight risk, he is therefore granted $5 000 bail," Kudya said.

Mangoma's charge stems from an alleged breach of tender regulations in the purchase of five million litres of diesel from a South African company, which prosecutors say failed to follow procurement procedures.

Zimbabwe's procurement laws prohibit government departments from buying goods worth more than $50 000 without going to tender.

The politician arrived in court in handcuffs, wearing the khaki-coloured prison uniform.

His arrest last week drew an angry reaction from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who called for new elections and said it was time for a "divorce" in the two-year-old unity government with veteran President Robert Mugabe.

Mangoma's arrest is the latest in a series of cases against lawmakers and activists who support Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change amid rising political violence, especially in the countryside.

Mangoma had been in custody since his arrest on Thursday. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in jail.