Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
FORMER Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi and three other top council managers have been acquitted of corruptly awarding tenders’ worth over $32 million due to insufficient evidence.
Mahachi, town treasurer Misheck Mubvumbi, waste water manager Simon Muserere and water director Christopher Zvobgo were charged for corruptly awarding tenders worth $32 million to two companies for refurbishment works without following the laid down procedure.
They were charged along with four councillors – Wilton Janjazi, Urayayi Mangwiro, Masiye Kapare and Paula Macharangwa.
The crime was allegedly committed at the height of the cholera outbreak that hit Harare in 2009.
As part of efforts to respond to the cholera outbreak, council officials were supposed to attend to sewer systems, which are deemed to be a manjor cause of water contamination at the time.
This process involved finding contractors to do the job.
It was the selection process that led to their arrest and prosecution.
Allegations were that their selection and awarding of tenders was as contaminated as the city’s effluent-filled water.
They were charged with two counts of criminal abuse of office as public officers, which they all denied.
The eight accused persons proffered individual defences to the charges when their trial began at the High Court before Justice Amy Tsanga.
The sum total of their not guilty pleas was that they did everything above board.
The year-long trial was concluded in January this year and Justice Tsanga on Monday cleared the eight of both charges of awarding two companies —Energy Resources Africa Consortium (ERAC) and SIDAL – tenders without open competitive bidding.
In acquitting the eight, the judge noted that a full council meeting made a decision to award the contracts making it difficult to conclude that the eight were motivated by the intention to show favour to ERAC as opposed to responding to the cholera outbreak.
“We do not believe that any evidence of a conclusive nature was presented to show that they were motivated by the intention to abuse their public office when they obtained the resolution in the defective manner that they did,” she said.
“There may sometimes be a fine line between inefficiency and abuse of office.”
The court also found that while there was evidence of anomalies and irregularities in how the council bosses conducted the process against what the law provides, the framing of the charges of connivance and common purpose fell far too short of being supported by facts.