Victor Maphosa and Prosper Dembedza
Former Principal Director State Residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet Douglas Tapfuma allegedly abused his office to facilitate the importation without duty of up to 82 vehicles, a court heard yesterday.
Tapfuma (53), who was arrested this week as part of the ongoing anti-corruption blitz by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), yesterday faced three counts of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer involving seven vehicles when he appeared before Harare Regional Magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya, but in opposing bail, the State said he was being investigated for importing 76 more vehicles using the same method.
He was remanded in custody to August 15.
Tapfuma — who was represented by a legal team led by Harare lawyer Vincent Matatu — failed to persuade the courts to grant him bail.
In its application, Tapfuma’s legal team argued that there was no evidence that their client benefited from the seven vehicles and that he used them for personal gain.
The team also argued that its client was of fixed abode, a senior Government official and there was neither evidence nor proof that he will interfere with the investigations.
In opposing bail, the State represented by Mr Charles Muchemwa argued that Tapfuma was a flight risk
due to the nature of the offence he was facing.
He said Tapfuma was also being investigated on another issue where he used the same modus operandus where he connived with other accomplices and illegally imported 76 double cab Isuzu vehicles.
In his bail ruling, Magistrate Mujaya said Tapfuma was not a proper candidate for bail.
“Due to the predicament he (Tapfuma) found himself in, as a senior Government official makes him a flight risk, there is a likelihood that he will abscond,” he said.
Allegations around the matter arose when Tapfuma purchased his two personal mini buses from South Africa under the guise of the Government on April 10 2018, chassis numbers KDH225-0001125 and KDH 225-0002048, respectively.
On April 17 2018 Tapfuma allegedly assigned Bonani Ganyane an officer working in the transport section of the department of State Residences to proceed to Beitbridge and facilitate clearance of the two vehicles on behalf of the department using report order forms as if they were Government vehicles.
It is the State case that clearance of goods by report order form is a clearance procedure that is normally used by Government departments to apply for deferred clearance of goods from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
Ganyane allegedly proceeded to Beitbridge and provisionally cleared the vehicles using report order forms. After clearing the alleged vehicles Ganyane advised Tapfuma who instructed him to hand over the vehicles to Vongaishe Mupereri who at that time was House of Assembly Member for Mbizo Constituency.
The court heard that on April 20 2018 Tapfuma made an application to the Chief Secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet requesting for duty free certificates in the name of President’s Department and they were issued.
Tapfuma allegedly applied for duty exemption for the vehicles at Zimra which was granted. He then registered the vehicles at Central Vehicles Registry under the name of the President’s Department and started using the vehicles for his personal use.
The alleged vehicles were liable to a duty of US$3 180.
The court heard that on count two Tapfuma purchased another batch of three personal vehicles on June 2018 from South Africa.
It is alleged that sometime that same month Tapfuma assigned Cousin Gwanyanya who was acting Transport Manager in the Department of State Residences to clear the vehicles at Zimra, Beitbridge.
Tapfuma allegedly gave Gwanyanya written requests on official Department of State Residences letterhead addressed to ZIMRA regional manager authorising him to clear Tapfuma’s personal vehicles while under the name of the Department of State Residences.
The court heard that Gwanyanya provisionally cleared the vehicles in Beitbridge and delivered them to Tapfuma at State House. It is alleged that Tapfuma made an application to the Chief Secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet requesting for duty free certificates purporting that the vehicles belonged to Government.
The duty free certificates were allegedly issued and Tapfuma applied for duty exemption for the three vehicles at Zimra which was granted.
He went on to register them at Central Vehicle Registry under the name of the President’s department and started using them for personal use.
The vehicles were supposed to pay duty of US$4 340.
On the third count, which occurred on August 13 2018 Tapfuma allegedly purchased a batch of two personal vehicles from South Africa.
The court heard Tapfuma used the above modus operandi to acquire the vehicles and was supposed to pay US$4 416 as duty.