By Charles Laiton
Registrar General Clemence Masango, who was on Wednesday arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) after purchasing vehicles without Cabinet authority, yesterday appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court and was remanded out of custody on $10 000 bail.
As part of his bail conditions, Masango was ordered to report twice at Waterfalls Police Station, not travel beyond the 40km radius of Harare, not to visit the Registrar-General’s Office, to surrender title deeds to his Borrowdale property and to surrender his travel documents. He is expected to back in court on June 4, 2020.
The top government official is alleged to have criminally abused his office, an offence which landed him before magistrate Bianca Makwande.
Through his lawyer Raymond Nembo, the Registrar was not asked to plead but he made an application for bail which was opposed by prosecutor Francesca Mukumbiri who argued that he was likely to abscond given that if convicted he faced up to 15 years behind bars.
“He is a man of means and given the weight of his offence which he now knows, he may be induced to flee. Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission officers had to use force to arrest him after he ordered his officers to block them from entering his office,” Mukumbiri said.
The prosecutor accused Masango of having interfered with the State’s key witness in the matter, one Peter Bwanya, who was a chief accountant in his office by calling a meeting on May 6, 2020 where he accused him of leaking information to Zacc.
Mukumbiri said Masango ordered Bwanya not to give any documents to Zacc.
“As if that was not enough, the accused (Masango) also confiscated a firearm belonging to Bwanya and kept it to himself,” adding Bwanya later received several threats at his home and that at some point, unidentified men scaled up his security wall at night and threatened him.
But in her determination Makwande said in the absence of an independent witness, the alleged threats could not be substantiated. She also queried why the police did not interview any other parties who were present during the alleged meeting convened at Masango’s offices on May 6.
“The State’s submissions falls short of compelling reasons required by the constitution to deny an accused person bail. The accused person has made a counter claim against Bwanya whom he has instituted disciplinary action against prior to investigations of this current matter. It is merely the word of the investigating officer against the accused person,” Makwande said.
In his defence, Masango denied the allegations that he confiscated Bwanya’s firearm, saying the accusations were fabricated.
He also challenged all the State’s allegations against him and denied that he did not comply with Zacc officers upon arrest and told the court that he assisted the officers during investigations.
The State alleges that sometime in October 2018, Masango sought authority from the permanent secretary in the ministry of Home Affairs, Melusi Matshiya, to purchase vehicles for the Civil Registry department.
On October 29, the State alleges, Masango originated a letter addressed to Matshiya requesting authority to purchase two Toyota Land Cruisers 200LC vehicles to improve access to district registries and sub offices that had become inaccessible due to rugged terrain.
However, the State said the request was approved on November 5, but before the vehicles were purchased, Matshiya cancelled the approval through a letter written in November 2018 addressed to Masango citing a shift in government policy regarding purchase of vehicles and Masango allegedly acknowledged receipt of the letter and instructed an accountant, Ndamukanei Gota, to take note and comply.
The State alleges on January 18, 2019 Masango then unlawfully and corruptly originated a memorandum to then chief accountant, Gota, instructing him to facilitate initial document meant for purchase of Land Cruisers and transfer US$78 505 towards purchase of a Ford Ranger double cab and for purchase of five Isuzu Lite Single cabs without Cabinet authority and approval from the ministry.
Acting on the said instructions, Gota originated a letter to FBC Bank authorising them to make payments of US$78 505 to Duly’s Motors Pvt Ltd Stanbic bank account meant for the purchase of the Ford Ranger and Wildtrak vehicles and a further US$95 291 was transferred to CMED FBC account for purchase of five Isuzu Lite single cabs.
The State also alleges that Masango further directed Gota to write a letter to CMED instructing them to purchase the said Ford Ranger from Duly’s Motors Pvt Ltd. A total of six vehicles were then subsequently delivered to Civil Registry department. NewsDay