Sneak peek into 6 high-profile corruption cases with acquittals in 3 months
"It would not be shocking that some of these corrupt elements 'donated' to the ruling party ahead of 2023 elections," Pride Mkono
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s pledge to fight rampant corruption in Zimbabwe is being questioned again following the acquittal of at least six high profile individuals in corruption cases in the space of just three months.
When Mnangagwa assumed power through a military coup that ousted late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, he pledged to fight corruption by restructuring the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and setting up the Special Anti-corruption Unit (SACU).
Four years later, his plan is being doubted following the systematic arrest and release of high profile corruption cases popularly known as the “catch and release” syndrome.
Former Health Minister Obadiah Moyo
Last month, the nation was sent into shock after former Health Minister Obadiah Moyo who was charged with corruption over allegations of awarding a multi-million-dollar (US$60 million) contract for medical equipment to a shadowy company Drax International was acquitted by the High Court.
The case is known as the Drax Covidgate scandal. Moyo was arrested last year, a few days after Drax International representative Delish Nguwaya was also arrested on charges of lying to Mnangagwa’s government that his company was a medical firm in a bid to supply the government with medical supplies. They were all released on bail before the case collapsed at the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The case became more interesting after Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia and son Collins were also fingered as the alleged beneficiaries.
Leaked documents suggested that a company called Drax Consult and Drax International were first awarded a contract worth US$20 million to supply medical equipment and medicines and another US$40 million for the supply of Covid-19 medicine and personal protective equipment.
The deal was later canceled and the beneficiaries are actually working on recovering the two million that had already been paid by the Zimbabwean government.
Former local government minister Ignatius Chombo
On October 5, the NPA failed to find any evidence linking former minister Ignatius Chombo to the six criminal charges he was facing resulting in all his cases collapsing.
Part of the allegations leveled against Chombo were that sometime between 2000 and 2015, Chombo illegally asked desperate land seekers to deposit money into his personal Agribank account, but he did not remit the funds for development purposes.
The former minister was accused of having misrepresented to the land seekers that he would allocate them housing stands at Kia Ora Farm under the Zvimba Rural District Council (RDC) but failed to do so.
Chombo was again, as another count, accused of using his influence as Local Government minister to grab 125 residential stands at Haydon Farm under Zvimba Rural District Council.
He was charged for allocating himself five low-density residential stands at Philadelphia Farm in Harare. Three other stands were allocated to the former minister’s associates. All these charges were dropped after the NPA failed to prove. He is now a free man.
On the 16th of October again, the High Court released controversial land developer Felix Munyaradzi from remand in a case in which he was accused of defeating the course of justice.
Police Commissioner Erasmus Makodza was the complainant in the matter.
Allegations were that sometime in July 2020, Makodza made a report of fraud against Munyaradzi after he resold stand number 1315 Sandton Mt Hampden, Harare, which he had sold to the complainant. Munyaradzi is now a free man after Justice David Mangota dismissed an application to place him on remand.
On the 15th of that same month, Harare regional magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa acquitted Helcraw Electrical businessman Farai Jere, who was facing fraud charges involving the procurement of smart meters valued at US$3,5 million.
Jere was being charged for defrauding the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) together with the power utility’s employers Leonard Chisina and Freeman Chikonzo and they were discharged after the state failed to establish the offences charged
On 29 September, Magistrate Ngoni Nduna cleared businessman Wicknell Chivayo and his company Intratrek on allegations of bribing former Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) ex-board chairman Stanley Kazhanje with US$10 000 to influence the award of the controversial Gwanda Solar Project.
Nduna said the State had failed to prove that Kazhanje participated in the decision to award the tender and dismissed the charges.
Former Harare City town clerk Tendai Mahachi
On Monday, NewsDay revealed that former Harare City town clerk Tendai Mahachi had been acquitted by the Supreme Court in a matter where he was accused of criminal abuse of office by corruptly awarding a tender valued at US$13,8 million for the rehabilitation of the Firle Sewage Digester and Ancillary Works together with seven others.
They were also accused of corruptly awarding a tender for the rehabilitation of Firle and Crowborough Sewage Works valued at US$18,1 million to Sidal Engineering (Pvt) Ltd, which had no capacity to execute the required work.
Commenting on Mahachi’s case, Norton legislator Temba Mliswa accused the NPA and police of being an extension of the ruling Zanu PF party.
“The Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission has done its job but the NPA and police are now arms of Zanu PF. They are told whom to arrest and prosecute. That is the whole problem with this country, the personalization and weakening of state institutions,” he said.
In an interview with Nehanda Radio, political activist Pride Mkono said:
“The acquittal of high ranking officials and politically connected persons is testimony of the catch and release policy by the Zanu PF government. There is zero political will to fight corruption because the biggest beneficiaries are those in government and the ruling party.
“It would not be shocking that some of these corrupt elements ‘donated’ to the ruling party ahead of 2023 elections. The way forward is for citizens to mobilise and build resilience at grassroots level to be able to assert their rights. The corrupt must be exposed and shamed for their callous acts which destroy the country.” Nehanda Radio