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Zesa bosses acquitted over debt collectors

by Staff reporter
22 Jun 2022 at 06:41hrs | Views
FORMER Zesa Holdings chief executive Joshua Chifamba and two other senior officials, who were appearing in court on allegations of appointing a Harare law firm as debt collectors paying it US$3 million in commission without board approval, were yesterday cleared of criminal abuse of office as public officers charges.

Chifamba, former company secretary Saidi Sangula and corporate legal manager Garikai Murambiwa-Churu were acquitted after the court upheld their application for discharge at the close of the State case.

That meant the State had not managed to show that a crime had been committed so they did not need to defend themselves.

The magistrate agreed with the legal point that Zesa staff are not public officers as they are paid by a parastatal, not the Government.

Chifamba, Sangula and Murambiwa-Churu, through their lawyers Mr Admire Rubaya, Advocate Sylvester Hashiti and John Bakasa, in their separate applications for discharge at the close of the State's case had argued that they were not public officers since Zesa Holdings was not a public entity.

In his application, Chifamba had told the court that he did not personally engage the law firm.

Sangula argued that he did not make the decision to appoint the law firm, as he was not present at work when the decision was made.

Murambiwa-Churu argued that he was not involved in the appointing of the law firm as it was the duty of the management.

He said he never extended any favour to the lawyers as the State alleged.

Harare regional magistrate Mrs Vongai Guwuriro agreed with the trio and upheld their application.

Mrs Guwuriro said it was clear that the three were not public officers since they did not get their salaries from Government.

She also agreed that ZESA Holdings was not a public entity, adding that the Government was only a major shareholder in the power utility company.

The court also noted that the State failed to deduce evidence from its witness that warrants the trio to be put to their defence.

"The accused cannot be put to their defence and in doing so will be an attempt to augment a State's case which is weak. The State failed to lead evidence that implicates the accused," she said.

Allegations against Chifamba, Sangula and Murambiwa-Churu were that sometime in December 2015, they engaged Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners for debt collection services for Zesa's distribution arm, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company, without a board resolution.

It was alleged that in January 2016, Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners started debt collection for ZETDC and on May 31, 2016, the law firm received US$5 000 as a debt collection fee from Zesa.

The court heard that when Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners started collecting the debts, they had no valid contracts and in a bid to rectify this, the three connived to regularise the engagement of the firm by later signing a contract on June 3, 2016, again without a board resolution giving the necessary approval.

This was allegedly done to authorise the awarding of the contract, thereby showing favour to the law firm.

It was further alleged that no board resolution was ever passed to authorise the engagement of Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners for the services it rendered throughout the term of service of the board.

From January 2016 to December 2019, the law firm is alleged to have received US$3 098 248 as commission for the services.

Source - The Herald
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