Former Telecel Zimbabwe boss and businessman, James Makamba, yesterday revealed that he fled the country and remained in self-imposed exile for 13 years after former President Robert Mugabe threatened to kill him on suspicion of having an adulterous affair with former First Lady, Grace.
Makamba made the disclosure after he handed himself over to the Harare Magistrates’ Court after fleeing from justice on August 31, 2005, when he was supposed to appear in court on currency externalisation charges.
The businessman, who was facing charges of externalising funds, told magistrate Hosea Mujaya that he genuinely believed that his life was in danger.
“Your worship my client was under genuine belief that his life was in danger. It was not in danger of the body of his person, but could have been killed if he continued residing in the country,” said Makamba’s lawyer Charles Chinyama Chinyama.
“The person whom he (Makamba) suspected may harm him is none other than the former Head of State Robert Mugabe who suspected that he was dating his wife, Grace. That man was viewed as the law unto himself.”
Chinyama said Makamba decided to have his day in court following Mugabe’s ouster last November in a military-led campaign, dubbed Operation Restore Legacy.
“It was a challenge for a simple man as he is, fighting against the Head of State, your worship. So to save his life, he decided to stay away until the right time,” he said.
The lawyer cited a similar case where the now late former President, Canaan Banana, fled the country at the height of his sodomy trial. Chinyama said the court understood Banana’s situation and did not charge him for absconding.
He pleaded with the court to pardon his client on the same grounds, but public prosecutor Michael Reza opposed the application saying the warrant of arrest against Makamba confirmed that the businessman had wilfully defaulted.
“Your worship, the accused wilfully defaulted court and should have brought the evidence that he was under threat from the former Head of State. If he produced proof that the former Head of State wanted to kill him, then the court may rule in his favour,” Reza said.
The prosecutor also suggested that Makamba’s property in Glen Lorne, Harare, which the latter surrendered as surety as part of his bail conditions, should be forfeited to the State as punishment for defaulting.
But the application for forfeiture was opposed by Chinyama who cited section 111 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which allows the court to call the accused’s name three times before the warrant can be issued.
It later emerged during trial, that the property in question was not registered in Makamba’s name but a company, Chiedza Investments. Chinyama told the court that the State was supposed to have issued a warrant of arrest against the company.
He added that the State’s failure to issue an arrest warrant against the firm means that the court had no power to grant an application for forfeiture because the State should call out the company’s name thrice as required at law.
Mujaya then spared Makamba’s house but ordered forfeiture of the Zimbabwe dollar money he had deposited with the clerk of court as bail. Makamba was also removed from remand with the State indicating that it would proceed by way of summons if it decides to pursue the matter.