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US$103,3 million corruption scandal at PetroTrade as Chinyoka sues Minister

Lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka has revealed that over US$103,3 million was corruptly squandered at Petrotrade (NOCZIM) before the board of directors he chaired was suspended by Energy Minister Soda Zhemu.

He revealed this in his High Court application seeking to overturn Zhemu’s decision to suspend him along with Zanele Dube, Simbarashe Mhuriro, Gladys Mumhure, Ferida Matambo, Lilian Timveos, Getrude Marabada, Godfrey Ncube and Dakarai Mukuku.

Sources who spoke to Nehanda Radio claim Chinyoka was elbowed out after opposing the selling of Petrotrade for only US$37 million to controversial business tycoon and President Emmerson Mnangagwa ally Kudakwashe Tagwirei.

Zhemu suspended the board last week for allegedly interfering with the company’s daily operations and tender processes. He said he was going to institute investigations into alleged corporate governance malpractices.

Chinyoka cited Zhemu, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and the Auditor General as the first, second and third respondents respectively.

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PetroTrade is mentioned as the fourth respondent.

Through his lawyer, Vongai Shumba of V Nyemba and Associates, Chinyoka said Zhemu’s decision was “unfair in that it casts aspersions on my character and integrity.”

“The manner in which he has couched his press statement is calculated to inflict maximum damage. In fact, I attach hereto marked as “Annexure UCA5” extracts from social media that have already interpreted the announcement as suggesting that I committed some criminality.

“I work as an Advocate. I rely on briefs from lawyers who will not have the context. that the 1st Respondent (Minister Zhemu) does, and who will read the 1st Respondent’s statement as indicating that I have done something wrong.

“Their clients will also read the same, and would balk at their lawyers suggesting briefing me on any matter. The 1st Respondent has not indicated when his ‘investigation’ will take place, (and it is likely that it will not be a genuine investigation given reports that it has been assigned to the ACEO) and in that time, my good name and reputation will be dragged in the mud by the insinuation that I have been involved in corruption and committed corporate governance failings.”

Chinyoka is seeking that his “purported suspension” from his position as a member of the Board of Directors of the PetroTrade by the Minister on 9 March 2022 “be and is hereby suspended”.

He wants to remain entitled to exercise his functions as Chairman of the Board of Directors of PetroTrade, with all the rights and entitlements that attach to that position.

In his application Chinyoka alleges that, before the board was suspended, he had recommended that the Ministry institute an investigation into several corruption controversies surrounding the office of the Permanent Secretary Gloria Magombo.

Nehanda Radio is in possession of the letters from Chinyoka recommending a forensic audit.

“Positively chastised, the Board wrote to the Permanent Secretary asking for a forensic audit to be carried out, leaving the matter in her hands. She did nothing, However, towards the end of the year it came to the attention of the Board that the company’s Acting Chief Executive Office (the ACEO) had been receiving communication from the 3rd Respondent about her office’s readiness to carry out the forensic audit but was not passing them on to the Board. The Board engaged the 3rd Respondent, and that audit is at the tender stage, though with the suspension of the Board it is likely to be cancelled.

“In light of the discovery that the ACEO had been keeping such communication from the Board, I had become even more suspicious about his honesty, and when he informed the Board that there were certain payments that it was “critical” that they be made I got even more suspicious.

“This was particularly because he had called me asking for my authorisation, when the normal practice is that management do not authorisation to make payments that are above board. He was clearly looking to have an alibi at my expense, so that he would be able to say that “the Chairman authorised it”.

“So I told him to bring them to the Board for approval. Twice before that Board meeting he tried to have me agree to just authorise them. These included payments of US$98,000,000.00 and US$23,000,000.00 for two projects that were finished and handed over years ago.

(A copy of the ACEO’s memo to the Board asking that these payments needed to be made is attached hereto marked as ‘Annexure UCA3’) instead asked the corporate department to see the files relating to all major projects and discovered that:

“The requested payments were in fact not due: where the ACEO wanted authorisation to pay US$98,000,000.00 the information on file showed that at most, the amount due was less than US$12,000.00 (twelve thousand united states dollars), and where he wanted US$23,000,000.00 we had in fact overpaid on the contract;

Chinyoka further alleged that there was a project at Mabvuku where the entire construction of the service station, at a cost of over US$2,8m, had proceeded without any contract having been signed.

He said the tender regulations were “always ignored” and projects started before authorisation from PRAZ.

“Fake interviews were conducted to confirm people to jobs, while making the other participants in those interviews think that they were in a fair process; There was massive theft of product in excess of 300,000 litres per year, which the ACEO routinely explained as ‘environmental factors”.

“The question of misleading the Board was put to the ACEO, and he was unable to offer a good reply. In fact, I have, since that meeting, discovered a more serious lie that he told the Board namely, that the Ministry had approved that vehicles be purchased for his friends within the company, the same people that have been undermining the Chief Operations Officer and the Business Development Director when in fact the 1st Respondent had refused to authorise it as appears from ‘Annexure UCA4’ attached hereto.

“The Board took the same view, and the ACEO has routinely asked the Board to explain itself to the shareholder why his friends are not getting the cars.)” Chinyoka wrote. Nehanda Radio