Zimbabwe court cancels ‘erroneously issued’ arrest warrant for Buyanga

HARARE – A Zimbabwean court on Monday cancelled a warrant for the arrest of millionaire businessman Frank Buyanga who was arrested by Interpol in Johannesburg on November 10 accused of abducting his son two years ago.

Harare magistrate Judith Taruvinga said the warrant was issued “erroneously.”

The cancellation of the warrant, which was used by Interpol to arrest the 42-year-old, could lead to his imminent release from Johannesburg Prison. The Randburg Magistrates Court has set November 17 as the date for Buyanga’s formal bail application.

Buyanga’s lawyer Admire Rubaya successfully argued that the warrant issued on April 22, 2020, was defective.

The lawyer told Taruvinga, who signed the warrant, that Lilybirth Ndlovu, the police officer who applied for it was a “mere detective sergeant”, whereas the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act requires that a police officer applying for an arrest warrant should be at least the rank of inspector or an assistant inspector in charge of a police station.

“The Magistrates Court’s decision to grant an application for a warrant of arrest against Buyanga in circumstances where the application was made by a detective sergeant is so outrageous in its defiance of logic that no reasonable court having applied its mind would arrive at it,” Rubaya argued.

Taruvinga granted the application for the cancellation of the warrant, stating: “The warrant of arrest erroneously issued against Frank Buyanga Sadiqi CR495/03/20 and DR 07/04/20 on April 20, 2020, is hereby cancelled.”

The South African Police Service which helped Interpol in executing the arrest warrant said Buyanga was detained for extradition proceedings to Zimbabwe on charges of “child trafficking, forgery and violation of the immigration act.”

The Hamilton Properties boss appeared before the Randburg Magistrates Court on November 10 and was remanded in custody to November 17.

Buyanga and ex-girlfriend Chantelle Muteswa are embroiled in a bitter custody battle for their now eight-year-old son, Daniel. Each side claims legal custody of the boy who was living with Buyanga since July 2019, before his mother took him from school without notice to Buyanga on March 11, 2020.

The businessman filed a police report accusing Muteswa of abducting the child, but he claimed police did nothing. He snatched the boy from a parked vehicle in a movie-style operation on March 26, 2020, and his lawyers say he left the country with the child a day later.

Zimbabwean police called Interpol after obtaining an arrest warrant, and the international police organisation subsequently put him on ‘Red Notice’ – which enjoins member countries to arrest a suspect when they land on their territory.

In a landmark judgement in 2020, the High Court gave Buyanga and Muteswa joint custody and guardianship of the child – but she immediately appealed to the Supreme Court. Justice Jacob Manzunzu, in his order of April 16, 2020, ordered Buyanga to surrender the child to Muteswa until the determination of the Supreme Court appeal.

In November last year, the Johannesburg High Court issued a temporary interdict stopping attempts to remove Daniel to Zimbabwe. The court appointed the Centre for Child Law to manage access to the child by both parents.

Buyanga had approached the High Court on an urgent basis, his lawyers arguing that Daniel is a South African citizen who was unlawfully taken to Zimbabwe in 2016 by Muteswa.

Buyanga, a permanent resident of South Africa, said Muteswa has South African citizenship. Their son was born in Sandton and assumed South African citizenship.

“On or around 2016, Buyanga and Muteswa had a fallout after it became apparent that she was having an affair with a Zimbabwean business mogul based in Harare. As such, Muteswa unlawfully relocated the minor child in a bid to settle with her new lover without the peremptory consent of Buyanga,” his lawyers told the Johannesburg High Court.

The matter is pending.

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