Daniel Nemukuyu-Investigations Editor
Nationwide corporate governance compliance spotchecks by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) have recently netted three rural district councils’ chief executive officers in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces for criminal abuse of office.
The checks exposed malpractices at Muzarabani Rural District Council, Mudzi Rural District Council and Guruve Rural District Council, resulting in the local authorities’ bosses being arrested.
Muzarabani chief executive officer Ennie Mafa Mutema and Guruve RDC boss Tinos Marisa were arrested over illegal mining contracts.
Mudzi chief executive officer Victor Nyamutswa and his deputy Farai Mutambawatusi were arrested for criminally awarding themselves hefty salaries and they are yet to appear in court.
Mutema and Marisa have since appeared before the courts charged with criminal abuse of duty as public officers and their cases are still pending.
In a statement, ZACC spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure said charges against Muzarabani council boss arose in 2012.
“ZACC arrested Mutema for criminal abuse of duty for allegations that in 2012, the Muzarabani RDC entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Varden Safaris whose terms were that the local authority would ensure the Mavhuradonha Wilderness area was free from mining, mineral panning, prospecting, human settlement, and construction of any type until 2036.
“However, on July 7 2015, Mutema acting in her capacity as CEO of Muzarabani RDC, allegedly entered into another Memorandum of Agreement with Allen Mashumba who allegedly posed as Afrochine Smelting (Pvt) Limited Director in which the latter was given authority to conduct mining activities in the Mavhuradonha Wilderness,” reads the statement.
The said arrangement, ZACC said, resulted in incompatible activities as Varden Safaris are into wildlife game breeding and botanical reserves, while Afrochine is into mining which disturbs the well-being of animals and the natural environment.
ZACC said such mining activities compromise chances of the nature reserve being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mutema is accused of intentionally signing the agreement while fully aware that there was a subsisting agreement with Varden Safaris which prohibited any mining, mineral panning or prospecting, human settlement, construction of any type within the wilderness.
She is said to have disregarded the fact that the area was declared a protected area, according to General Notice 369 of 1988 and a National Monument through Statutory Instrument 06 of 2017 and is awaiting confirmation of its World Heritage site status.
Mutema also stands accused of failing to verifying if Mashumba was a genuine director or employee of Afrochine Smelting (Pvt) Limited.
Such failure to verify facts prior to signing of a deal, resulted in Mutema signing an agreement with a bogus company.
Mutema is out on bail and she is expected back in court on 04 October 2021 for commencement of trial.
Guruve RDC boss Tinos Marisa allegedly granted Labenmon Investments entry in Varden Safaris in Muzarabani on their way to some mining claims when the area was outside Guruve RDC’s jurisdiction.
It is alleged that on May 5 2021, Marisa was approached by Labenmon Investments who sought to be allowed access to mining sites which they claimed to be in Varden Safaris, Mavhuradonha Wilderness in Muzarabani.
Despite knowing the area targeted by Labenmon Investments was outside his jurisdiction, Marisa allegedly wrote a letter granted the company permission to enter Varden Safaris wilderness.
It is further alleged that acting on the authority of Marisa’s letter, personnel from Labenmon Investments forced their way into the conservancy and commenced clearing a three-metre-wide road in the conservancy.
In granting Labenmon authority to enter the protected area, Marisa is accused of overlooking the fact that Tingwa Botanical Reserve, where mining would be conducted in the Mavhuradonha Wilderness, is a declared national monument according to SI 6 of 2017 and now awaits World Heritage Status.
He also did not consider the fact that the papers they produced were for mining nickel in Guruve and not chrome in Muzarabani.
As a result of his actions, the chances of the Mavhuradonha Safaris being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site were jeopardised due to disruptions to the ecosystem caused by road construction leading to the botanical reserve.
It is also believed that many animals which used the area as breeding grounds fled to unknown locations which made it difficult to monitor the breeding programme for Varden Safaris.
Meanwhile, Mudzi RDC boss Nyamutswa and the head of human resources department Mutambatuwisi are expected to appear in court after they were arrested for allegedly conniving to award a 150 percent salary and allowances increment without council resolution.
It is further alleged that the increase was over and above the salary approved by the National Employment Council (NEC) following a collective bargaining exercise.
The approved increase was for lower grade employees. However, the two included senior management whose increments are subject to negotiations with the council.
In the second count, Nyamutswa is accused of double dipping from the local authority’s fuel facility by claiming both liquid fuel and cash for the same.