Source: Year Ender – the guys who made it to Harare Magistrates’ Courts | The Herald 29 DEC, 2018
Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
High-level corruption scandals involving big wigs in Government and dodgy business kingpins had over the years become endemic problem in the country and affecting the country from fully leveraging on its potential as one of the most favoured investment destinations in the world.
President Mnangagwa, through his “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” initiative that is expected to help turn the country into a middle income economy by 2030, has made the fight against corruption one of his major priorities.
This resulted in the arrest and prosecution of several high-profile figures. The year will go into annals of history as the busiest for the Harare magistrates’ courts since time immemorial. The anti-corruption dragnet started as early as January and spread its tentacles throughout the year.
The year started off with the arrest of former Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi and Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge during the first week of January.
They were arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on charges of abuse of office. Undenge who was accused of prejudicing the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) of $12 650, was later convicted and sentenced to an effective two-and-a-half years in prison in July.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Hoseah Mujaya initially sentenced him to four years in prison before suspending one-and-a-half years on condition he does not commit a similar crime within the next five years. Undenge had in 2016 handpicked a public relations company owned by then Zanu-PF legislator Psychology Maziwisa and former ZBC news anchor Oscar Pambuka to do work for ZPC without going to tender.
Undenge, however, was released in August on $1 000 bail after he appealed against his four-year jail term at the High Court.
Mzembi’s trial faced numerous postponements and the State has now set January 28, 2019 as trial date.
He is standing trial for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for the 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly. The former minister is also accused of disposing of 16 PVA television screens through donating, loaning or hiring them to various institutions and church organisations without approval from the Finance Ministry.
Four days after the arrest of the two ministers in January, Maziwisa and Pambuka were arrested by ZACC for fraud involving $12 500 paid to them and potential prejudice of $36 000.
This was after they were engaged to offer public relations consultancy services to ZPC through Undenge. Their trial was concluded early this month and the duo was convicted and jailed for 30 months each.
Through their lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange, the duo, however, successfully applied for bail pending appeal against both conviction and sentence at the High Court.
They are now out of custody on $800 bail each. In March, the anti-graft crusade scaled to new heights when the country launched anti-corruption courts to tackle high-level cases of corruption.
This came at a time Zimbabwe was ranked 157 out of 185 on the World Corruption Index, according to graft watch-dog Transparency International.
At least 12 magistrates were selected to be preside over cases of corruption in five anti-corruption courts launched by Chief Justice Luke Malaba in Harare and Bulawayo.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said this was part of his 100-day Rapid Results Initiative, which he had to meet before April 10.
This was, however, given impetus in May after President Mnangagwa made a bold statement when he established a Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) housed in the Office of the President and Cabinet to improve efficiency in the fight against all forms of graft and to strengthen the effectiveness of national mechanisms for the prevention of corruption.
SACU’s terms of reference included collaborating with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and other such institutions in the fight against corruption, assist ZACC and other investigative agencies of the State in the perusal and consideration of corruption dockets, subject to the issuance of Authority to Prosecute by the Prosecutor General, to prosecute corruption cases referred to the National Prosecuting Authority by investigative agencies.
In July, the anti-corruption crack unit was operationalised and began combing through tonnes of documentary evidence which could be used to prosecute corruption cases.
Renowned lawyer and State prosecutor Mr Thabani Mpofu was appointed head of the six-member team that also includes lawyers from Government, private practice and experienced prosecutors. Other members of the team included Messrs Brian Vito, Tapiwa Godzi, Mike Chakandida, Zivanai Macharaga and Ms Vernanda Munyoro.
The mechanisms to arrest corruption were strengthened around mid-year.
In August controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo appeared before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts facing four charges of fraud, money laundering and contravening Exchange Control Act for corruptly receiving $5 million from ZPC.
Chivayo was charged along with his company Intratrek Zimbabwe. The businessman was arrested at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International airport on his way to South Africa.
He was condemned to remand prison after he was denied bail at the Harare magistrates’ courts. But the jet-setting businessman secured his freedom after the High Court released him on $2000 bail coupled with stringent conditions.
Chivayo has since obtained a High Court order suspending the trial pending the High Court determination on his application for exception to the charges.
Later in the same month, Undenge was back at Harare magistrates’ courts in connection with a case in which Intratrek Zimbabwe was allegedly corruptly awarded the Gwanda solar power plant tender by Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).
The State argued Intratrek was awarded the said tender at the instigation of Undenge resulting in ZPC losing over $5 million. However, Undenge was acquitted this month (December) after the State failed to provide sufficient evidence linking Dr Undenge to the case.
Undenge — through his lawyer Mr Alec Muchadehama — had made an application for discharge at the close of the State’s case, arguing that the evidence that had been provided was not admissible enough to cause conviction.
The court granted the application on the basis that the State’s main witness, Mr Noah Gwariro’s evidence was not reliable as he had reason to lie to avoid arrest and conviction since he was once Undenge’s co-accused.
In yet another graft case in October, Zesa Holdings chief executive Josh Chifamba, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) managing director Julian Chinembiri and his finance director Thokozani Dhliwayo also appeared at the magistrates’ courts on charges involving over $35 million alleged underhand dealings with an Indian company, PME for the supply of transformers.
They are granted $3 000 bail each. The matter was postponed to January 18 next year when the prosecution is expected to furnish the suspects with a trial date. Magistrate Ms Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ordered the State to provide the trial date on the next remand date or the trio would be removed from remand
November saw former Information Communication Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira appearing in court on two counts of criminal abuse of office. He was granted $2 000 bail accompanied with stringent conditions.
The criminal abuse of office charges stemmed from his engagement of a South African company, Megawatt to do consultancy work for NetOne and, for appointing his personal assistant to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) board.
His trial has been deferred to January 21 next year.
In the same month Chivhayo and prominent businessman and socialite Genius Kadungure were arrested by police at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts after attending separate court sessions.
Kadungure was arrested on charges of alleged tax evasion amounting to $22 million, while Chivayo was arrested on charges of bribing former ZPC board chairperson Mr Stanley Nyasha Kazhanje with $10 000.
Kazhanje has since appeared in court charged with criminal abuse of office after he allegedly received the bribe from Chivayo so that the 100-megawatt Gwanda Solar Project, which had been awarded to Intratrek Zimbabwe would not be cancelled.
Kadungure was at the courts for a case in which he allegedly duped Chegutu West National Assembly Member Cde Dexter Nduna and Ivon and Enos Gatawa of R1 535 000 in a pump supply deal.
Initially, Kadungure was jointly charged with Chivayo who was cleared of any wrong doing in the fraud case at the close of the State case in August.
The move by the Second Republic to stem the tide of corruption has given the nation a ray of hope and this is likely to see more investors flocking to Zimbabwe to explore and do business in the country.