30 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Muchechetere Faces Criminal Charges

There was drama at the Rotten Row court yesterday as Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) suspended chief executive officer, Happison Muchechetere tried to avoid photographers.

Muchechetere who had appeared in court facing three criminal charges, attempted to leave through the back door but upon realising that more camera persons were already there waiting for him, he retreated into the dingy corridor and for quite a bit of time lurked in the darkness.

A senior member of his entourage took matters into his hands and coaxed Muchechetere to come out.

Once out of the gate he was whisked away in a white Isuzu twin cab. He will be back in court on April 11.

Muchechetere, was granted a US$3000 bail by provincial magistrate Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe. He is also facing a count of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer and another of contravening Section 35 of the Procurement Act Chapter 22.14.

Represented by Keith Kachambwa, Muchechetere who was picked up by police on Thursday was given stringent bail conditions which included surrendering his travelling documents and reporting to the police serious fraud section once every week.

Looking dapper in a short sleeved safari suit, the 63 year-old Muchechetere appeared composed and unruffled as he followed proceedings in the packed courtroom. He was not asked to plead.

According to the state case led by prosecutor Tungamirai Chakurira, on January 18 2013, Muchechetere allegedly entered into a procurement deal to purchase an Outside Broadcasting (OB) Van with a firm called China National Instruments Imports and Exports Corporation without going to tender.

The allegedly doctored price for the OB Van was US$1 050 000. In the same year on April 23, the state says Muchechetere misrepresented to the ZBC executive committee that US$495 000 which had been donated by BancABC was enough to purchase an OB Van, a Cargo van and a crew bus.

The committee went on to approve the purchase of the van using the BancABC donation. The state says Muchechetere did not disclose his prior deal with the Chinese firm. He instead flew to China where he signed an agreement concerning the inspection of the OB Van. It is alleged that in the agreement he stated that the inspection had been conducted by ZBC from 17 to 19 June, yet none had been done.

On July 2 Muchechetere instructed BancABC to release US$100 000 to the Chinese company for the clearance and shipment of the said OB Van.

The Van was delivered to Zimbabwe on August 8 2013.

However matters came to light following the suspension of Muchechetere in November last year.

A preliminary investigation into the procurement of the OB Van revealed that the market price for the van did not exceed US$350 000, contrary to the US $ 1 050 000 which Muchechetere allegedly agreed with the Chinese firm. He potentially prejudiced ZBC of US$800 000 and nothing was recovered, the State alleges.

Muchechetere hogged the headlines last year following revelations that he was earning a salary and allowances close to US$40 000 per month.

Although Muchechetere was sent on leave this year to allow a forensic audit, there was uproar from members of the public who felt that his salary was not justified.

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