Source: Minister’s arrest opens can of worms – The Standard July 28, 2019
BY BLESSED MHLANGA/ FARAI MATIASHE
Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira was yesterday denied bail and will spend 21 days in custody as the government dismissed accusations that her arrest was linked to Zanu PF’s internal fights.
Acting chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi approved prosecutor general Kumbirai Hodzi’s special certificate to detain the minister, who is accused of corruption involving at least $96,5 million.
Mutevedzi said there was reasonable suspicion that the Zanu PF politburo member committed the offences she was charged for by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).
Mupfumira’s lawyer Charles Chinyama had told the court Mupfumira was not linked to the alleged siphoning of money from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).
Chinyama said it was the NSSA board that was responsible for the transactions and that it did not take any instructions from the minister.
However, Mutevedzi said there was reasonable suspicion that Mupfumira was involved.
“They (lawyers’ submissions) do not destroy the state’s basis. The state is alleging that the minister played a role,” he ruled.
“Indeed the state has established grounds and facts that the accused person may have been involved.”
Mutevedzi said detaining Mupfumira for 21 days would allow investigators to probe her bank accounts.
“The effect of that certificate is to oust this court and every other court’s jurisdiction in determining issues to do with the accused person’s ambition to bail during the lifespan of that certificate,” he said.
Prosecutor Michael Raza had argued Mupfumira could destroy evidence and tamper with critical documents if released on bail.
The prosecution laid out charges ranging from abuse of state pension fund money to finance Mupfumira’s political campaigning, to directing investments of up to $62 million into a bank against the advice of the pension fund’s risk committee.
Mupfumira is also accused of leaning on the pension fund to enter into property deals with the same bank worth $15,7 million.
The charges arose from Mupfumira’s tenure as Labour minister between 2014 and 2018, when she oversaw the state pension fund.
“While some amounts have been identified, where they went to, there are other amounts which the police and officers at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) have failed to find. She has managed to hide that money very well,” Reza said in court.
Meanwhile, Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana said claims that Mupfumira was being targeted because she was among Zanu PF MPs accused of plotting to impeach Mnangagwa were not true.
“Let’s not lace the significance of this milestone with idle pub talk. Never before has a serving minister been arrested and arraigned before the courts,” he said.
“Let’s see this for what it is: a turning point in the fight against corruption. The nation has been crying for ZACC to show its teeth.
“Zacc has bared its fangs and the fight against corruption will never be the same.
“Those who think this case is about politics and not public accountability have another thing coming.
“They will know that this new dispensation and zero tolerance to corruption means just that.”
However, contrary to Mangwana’s claims former Finance minister Chris Kuruneri was arrested in 2004 while he was still in government.
ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo declined to comment on the matter, saying they had said enough about the commission’s independence.
“Give us time to focus on delivering our mandate. We shall only respond to new issues,” she said.
A member of Mupfumira’s family said she believed that she was being targeted by her political rivals.
“We all know these charges are false, it’s a political ploy and she knows it.
“That is why for us as a family we are saying let the charges come and we will fight them,” she said.
Former Zanu PF provincial chairperson Temba Mliswa claimed Social Welfare minister Sekai Nzenza had gone into hiding after indications she was being targeted for arrest in connection with Mupfumira’s case, but police dismissed the allegations.
Mnangagwa’s allies in Zanu PF in January alleged that they were being targeted by unknown people who wanted them to ditch the president through an impeachment.
Last year in the run-up to the elections, the president said he was aware of a plan by aspiring ruling party MPs to impeach him before his term ended.