Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Former Minister Petronella Kagonye can consider herself very fortunate to be serving an effective sentence of just 16 months for defrauding Potraz of the 20 laptops given to her for schools in her Goromonzi South Constituency, as both the High Court and now a Supreme Court judge have said the magistrate who jailed her showed a lot of lenience.
Kagonye lost her appeal at the High Court against both conviction and sentence, with the court finding the trial magistrate had correctly convicted her and that the three-year sentence was appropriate if not on the lenient side, with 12 months suspended on the usual conditions of future good behaviour and another eight months suspended if she paid US$10 000 to refund Potraz for the laptops she misappropriated.
She then applied to appeal to the Supreme Court.
But Kagonye, who is a former Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, could not persuade that court to hear her appeal.
Delivering judgement, Justice Benjamin Chikowore last week threw out the application, after noting that the magistrate in the graft trial was too lenient with the former minister.
Justice Chikowore could not be convinced that Kagonye had any prospects of success on appeal against conviction and definitely not against the sentence.
Instead, Kagonye was told that the courts should set an example to would-be public office offenders.
“I am not at all persuaded that there is a reasonable prospect of success in arguing that the sentence imposed induces a sense of shock,” said Justice Chikowore. “It appears the trial court actually erred on the side of lenience.
“Considering the courts’ tough stance in sentencing high ranking officers convicted of corruption-related offences, the applicant, it seems to me, was indeed fortunate relative to sentence.
“The application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court be and is dismissed in its entirety.”
Kagonye is serving her sentence at Chikurubi Female Prison.
Kagonye was found guilty of grabbing 20 laptops that were meant to benefit schools in her Goromonzi South constituency through the e-learning project.
She was given the laptops through Potraz and was allowed to choose the schools she wanted to benefit for purposes of e-learning. Kagonye then authorised her brother, Evans Kagonye, to collect the computers on her behalf.
While fully aware that she had to donate the laptops to schools in her constituency, Kagonye decided to donate three laptops to a school for the physically impaired in Ruwa and misappropriated the rest.
Kagonye was initially charged with theft and criminal abuse of office as well as fraud.
However, she was cleared of the other two at the close of the State case, for lack of evidence.
The judges who tossed out her appeal also remarked that Kagonye was a disgrace to society, as she became an obstacle to social development.