By Victor Maphosa
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira, who appeared in court yesterday on corruption allegations involving $95 million, spent another night in custody last night. The minister is expected to appear in court at 10am today for bail ruling.
She was arrested on Thursday by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and is facing seven counts of alleged criminal abuse of office.
During the initial court appearance yesterday, Minister Mupfumira’s defence lawyers argued that their client did not benefit anything in her personal capacity from all the alleged offences involving the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) funds.
The defence team led by Mr Charles Chinyama argued there was no evidence the minister directed NSSA to make transactions with Metbank as alleged.
On Minister Mupfumira’s second ministerial vehicle allegedly purchased out of NSSA funds, Mr Chinyama argued that his client was not responsible for vehicle allocation. “She is not responsible for vehicle allocation and cannot refuse what she is given by her employer,” he said.
On NSSA bailing out Metbank, Mr Chinyama said the transactions predated the minister’s appointment to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry, under which NSSA falls.
“The transactions were conducted when our client was not yet the Minister of Social Welfare. Her only involvement was after her appointment, and was of mediating in a dispute between NSSA and Metbank.
“Again, on NSSA purchasing properties from Metbank, there is no way NSSA could have made the purchase without a resolution; NSSA is run by a board. If there is a charge, it should be on NSSA for recklessness,” said Mr Chinyama.
On the US$62 million Treasury Bills, Mr Chinyama said there was no way NSSA could have taken verbal instructions and none of the transactions benefited Minister Mupfumira.
In response, the State represented by Chief Prosecutor Mr Michael Reza produced a certificate of further detention from the Prosecutor General’s office, which he presented in reference to Section 32 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act where prosecutors may seek further detention of the accused for 21 days due to the gravity of the matter.
He also said there was evidence and suspicious payments from NSSA to Metbank, then to Minister Mupfumira’s company accounts.
“ZACC and police are struggling to trace (Minister) Mupfumira’s transactions, she has hidden the money very well. There are, however, five instances of NSSA transactions where the ‘payee’ is P. Mupfumira. “The police have proof of payments from NSSA to Metbank and suspicious payments to the accused’s company accounts.
“ZACC is still investigating the final destiny of these amounts. There are two principal actors, the accused and Metbank. Metbank was in dire straits and the accused directed NSSA to buy four properties at inflated prices from Metbank and immediately, Metbank was fluid. She clearly did that to make Metbank fluid and she achieved it,” said Mr Reza.
Acting Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi rolled over the matter to today for bail ruling. The Chronicle