BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
FORMER Public Service minister Petronella Kagonye was yesterday convicted of corruption and criminal abuse of office.
Kagonye was facing four counts of fraud, theft and criminal abuse of office involving 20 laptops donated to schools in her then Goromonzi South constituency that she failed to account for.
The other three counts were, however, dismissed for lack of evidence.
The former minister, who was represented by Rungano Mahuni, denied the allegations, saying they were political and meant to tarnish her image.
But magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guwuriro ruled that the State represented by Zivanai Macharaga had proved a case against her.
“The laptops given to the accused were specifically for Goromonzi schools. The recipient was supposed to write down the names of beneficiaries and provide the list to Potraz (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe),” Muchuchuti-Guwuriro ruled.
“The accused said in her defence that she was not instructed to bring back the list of beneficiaries. The accused sent a begging bowl for the supply of computers to specific schools. Potraz allocated 20 laptops, but the court was only shown three.”
She ruled that Kagonye misrepresented facts in court when she said her secretary, one Catherine, had the records of the computers.
“Using the donations to campaign was a strategy of the accused, not the one who donated. Out of ignorance, she used the laptops to campaign which was not the idea of the donor. The State managed to prove a prima facie case against the accused. Guilty of the accused have been established beyond reasonable doubt,” Muchuchuti-Guwuriro ruled.
In mitigation, Mahuni pleaded for leniency, saying Kagonye was the sole breadwinner in her family and had a child below five years.
Mahuni pleaded with the court for a fine, saying a custodial sentence would harden Kagonye as she would be mingling with hardcore criminals in prison. The magistrate postponed the matter to today for sentencing.
The court heard that between June 2018 and July 2019, Kagonye wrote to former Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira requesting computers to donate to schools in Goromonzi.
On June 20, 2018, Mandiwanzira wrote to Potraz requesting the computers. Potraz then donated the computers to Kagonye, which were collected on her behalf by her brother Evans.
But the computers could not be accounted for.