Court grants bail to Zimbabwe ex-VP facing graft charges

A former Zimbabwean vice president facing corruption charges was granted bail on Wednesday, his lawyer said.

Phelekezela Mphoko, 79, who briefly appeared in court in Bulawayo, the country's second city, was a deputy to long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in November 2017.

He is facing charges of criminal abuse of office after allegedly ordering a chief executive officer and a non-executive director of Zimbabwe's roads authority to be released from police custody.

Mphoko made headlines on Monday when he sped away as officers of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) approached his car outside a police station where he was due to sign a statement.

He claimed he had been tipped off that he would be injected with a poisonous substance if he was detained.

A ZACC official then labelled him a fugitive from justice.

But his lawyer, Zibusiso Ncube, said he never fled.

"It was mere speculation and misinformation," he told AFP.

Ncube said he wrote a letter to the ZACC chairperson Loice Matanda-Moyo explaining his client's concerns and that he was ready to answer the charges in a court of law.

"So we went to court today and my client was granted $1 000 (about US$100) bail, ordered to surrender his passport, to report to the police every Friday and not to interfere with investigations," the attorney said.

He returns to court on September 4.

Mphoko was, along with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of Zimbabwe's two vice presidents at the time of Mugabe's ouster.

He fled the country as the military-led coup took place but later returned.

He is the second high ranking member of the ruling Zanu-PF party to be probed by the recently-reconstituted ZACC.

Prisca Mupfumira, who was fired as tourism minister earlier this month, was the first high profile official to be arrested and detained for alleged graft.

She has been denied bail and has been in remand prison since her arrest on July 25.

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