HARARE – Former ministers Walter Mzembi and Samuel Undenge — facing charges of criminal abuse of office — appeared in court yesterday and were further remanded to February 27.
Mzembi and Undenge were represented by Job Sikhala and Alec Muchadehama, respectively. They appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzayi Mugwagwa.
Sikhala notified the court that he would be filing an application for refusal of further remand on behalf of Mzembi on their next court appearance.
Muchadehama also hinted that he would be applying for variation of Undenge’s bail conditions on the same date.
Mzembi and Undenge are currently on $400 bail. They have been ordered to report every Friday at Borrowdale and Highlands Police Station respectively, not to interfere with witnesses and to reside at their given address.
According to State papers, charges against Mzembi are that sometime in 2010, the ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry initiated a motion to acquire LED Public Viewing Area televisions for the public countrywide in its bid to introduce Fan Parks for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The Stare alleges that in its bid to import the television screens, Mzembi’s ministry applied and obtained funds from Treasury, under Finance minister Tendai Biti at the time, for the purchase of 40 screens amounting to $2 million.
The money was deposited into Shanghai Linso Digital Technology Company’s account in China, as payment for the equipment. Forty television screens were duly delivered and received by the ministry of Tourism and entered into its asset register.
According to the charge sheet, Mzembi then allegedly criminally abused his office by intentionally and unlawfully disposing State assets namely 16 PVA television screens by means of donating, loaning or hiring them to various institutions and church organisations without approval from the ministry of Finance.
The TV sets were donated to Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church and Walter Magaya’s Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries.
“The PVA screens are still being possessed by the various institutions and church organisations and are valued at $800 000. Government assets are not loaned to private parties. They are not donated, hired or transferred to other entities without authority from Treasury,” reads part of Mzembi’s charge sheet.
In his defence, Mzembi is arguing that his conduct was above board, since his actions were in compliance with a Cabinet resolution.
Through his lawyer, Sikhala of Koto and Company Legal Practitioners, Mzembi intends to subpoena former president Robert Mugabe, former vice president Joice Mujuru and Biti to prove to the courts that his hands are clean.
Sikhala has told the Daily News that they have been forced to call in Mugabe as a witness after the State refused to release Cabinet minutes to that effect.
“They are refusing to declassify Cabinet minutes that gave him that directive to implement religious tourism at the material time,” said Sikhala.
“We are not going to stop until we get the truth so we are going to subpoena the former chairperson of Cabinet at the material time who is former president Robert Mugabe to come and appear in court to tell us about the Cabinet resolutions regarding the policy of promoting religious tourism,” he added.
In Undenge’s case, it is alleged that on January 14, 2016, he gave a directive to Zimbabwe Power Company to engage Fruitful Communications without going to tender.
Prosecutor Linda Gadzikwa alleged that Fruitful Communications was supposed to disseminate information of all ZimAsset-based projects.
“As a result Fruitful Communications fraudulently invoiced
$12 650 to ZPC which they were paid without doing any work,” read part of Undenge’s charge. He is jointly charged with Zanu PF Highfield West legislator Psychology Maziwisa and television personality Oscar Pambuka, who have also appeared in court charged with defrauding the Zimbabwe Power Company of the $12 000.
Maziwisa and Pambuka have appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzayi Mugwagwa.
They have both been released on $300 bail pending finalisation of the case.