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Mzembi not yet off the hook

by Staff reporter
03 Jun 2021 at 05:55hrs | Views
The Prosecutor General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi yesterday got the green light to contest a recent High Court judgment clearing fugitive ex-Cabinet minister Walter Mzembi and three others of grabbing four vehicles donated to the Government ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference held in Zimbabwe eight years ago.

The High Court in March this year dismissed the PG's application for forfeiture of the vehicles, three Ford Ranger T6 double cab vehicles and a Tata Xenon.

The vehicles were bought from funds donated by the corporate world ahead of the UNTWO conference.

But the PG contends that he was never advised of the judgment day, hence his office failed to appeal within the permissible time frame.

He had to seek condonation to file the appeal out of time, an application that was granted by the Supreme Court yesterday.

Mzembi, who was Tourism Minister, ex-permanent secretary Margaret Sangarwe and two hired UNTWO consultants - Sussana Makombe Kuhudzai and Dzingira Mushore - allegedly retained the vehicles after the conference against an agreement that the vehicles were to be handed over to Government.

Although the criminal case against the suspects was still pending at the magistrates' court, Justice David Mangota went on to clear Mzembi, Margaret Sangarwe and the two consultants of any wrongdoing saying, "Their hands remain as white as snow".

Supreme Court judge, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi yesterday granted the PG's application to contest the decision.

Acting Deputy Prosecutor General Mr Justin Uladi yesterday said the case was not yet over and the PG will now file an appeal.

He clarified that the High Court had only been asked to rule on whether or not the vehicles should be forfeited, saying the criminal case was still to be determined by the magistrate's court.

"The judgment which came out on March 12 was about forfeiture of motor vehicles and it had nothing to do with criminal charges they are facing.

"Further, we are appealing the decision and we have just been granted condonation to appeal out of time by Justice Mathonsi this afternoon.

"We could not appeal within the time frame provided by the rules as we had not been advised of the date for handing down the judgment," said Mr Uladi.

On appeal, the State will argue that the vehicles belong to Government and they must be forfeited.

"It is submitted that vis, the first ground of appeal, the funds which purchased the disputed vehicles were donated to Government as per Professional Organiser Contract between the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality and the fundraising consultants who were to be remunerated 2-3 percent of the success fee.

"Consequently, the decision by the respondents to petition property whose beneficial owner was Government of Zimbabwe constituted an act of unlawful conversion to own use, which renders the said vehicles proceeds of crime . . . "

The State also argues that the person who purchased one of the vehicles could have verified its ownership before parting with money. The vehicle, according to the registration book, belonged to UNTWO and failure to verify ownership resulted in the unlawful sale.

In his application for a civil forfeiture order, Mr Hodzi says: "In 2011, Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to co-host the 20th United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Conference in August 2013.

"Government assigned Mzembi to come up with various ways to raise money for hosting the conference. Mzembi engaged Kuhudzayi and Mushore as consultants to carry out fund-raising activities on behalf of the ministry."

Mr Hodzi said the ministry's mandate was to fund-raise with local and international corporate companies, donors and financiers.

This led to the signing of a professional conference organiser (PCO) contract on May 15, 2012, between the ministry and the contractor valid for 24 months.

Kuhudzayi and Mushore were signatories to the PCO contract.

Remuneration for consultants was based on a success fee between two to three percent depending on the value raised.

"Kuhudzayi and Mushore formed a consultancy company called Conventions Africa and Mzembi, using a Government letterhead, wrote letters requesting donations," read the application.

"Corporates responded positively and Mbada Diamonds donated US$815 000. Using the money, the pair bought two Ford Ranger T6 double cabs for US$52 493,00 and US$53 683 and a Ford Ranger double cab for US$44 534."

The vehicles were to be used before and during the hosting of the UNWTO and they were registered in a UNWTO trust which was not registered with the Registrar of Deeds.

Sangarwe took possession of a Ford Ranger T6 (registration number ACU 6801) and did not surrender it after the conference.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) investigated the matter, the vehicle was recovered and Sangarwe charged.

Kuhudzayi took the other Ford Ranger T6 (ACU 3707) contrary to Government procedures. She sold the vehicle to Grey Hama and was later arrested.

"Mzembi took a Ford Ranger (ACU 7946). In March 2013, Mzembi approached Mimosa Mine through its chairman, Mr Winston Chitando, who donated a Tata Xenon double cab (ACX 5409) for use at the conference," read the application.

Mushore took possession of the vehicle.

Source - the herald