16 May 2018

Zimbabwe: Fraud Accused Undenge Fingers Mnangagwa

Photo: The Herald
Former Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge

Former Energy minister on criminal abuse of office charges has roped in President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying he acted on directives from his office when he awarded a communications company a contract without going to tender.

Undenge said this when his trial commenced before Harare magistrate Hosea Mujaya on Tuesday.

He landed in the dock after he favoured Zanu PF legislator for Highfield, Psychology Maziwisa and former ZBC News anchor Oscar Pambuka who own Fruitful Communications.

The two are also answering to fraud charges and their trial is yet to commence.

Undenge denied the charges arguing that he complied with the directive because Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) public relations department was not performing well.

"My client was misled by the owners of Fruitful Communications who told him that the company had been authorized by the President, when he was still the Vice President to work with ZPC. They said they had been instructed to do ZIMASSET projects for all parastatals," said his lawyer Alex Muchadehama.

According to Muchadehama, his client only appended his signature on a letter which was drafted by Maziwisa and Pambuka.

The first witness in the case, Fadzai Chisveto, ZPC PR executive, told court that she could not deny nor confirm that Undenge was the one who wrote the letter authorizing the duo to do work for the company.

Under cross examination she said, "I can't confirm or deny that he indeed authorized the contract. We assumed he wrote the confirmation letter because his signature was inscribed on it," she said.

She, however, went on to support Undenge saying she had evidence to prove that he didn't abuse his duties.

Chisveto told court that she was the one who made payments to Maziwisa and Pambuka.

Undenge is accused of fraudulently awarding Fruitful Communications a contract without going to tender prejudicing the state of $12 650.

The former minister allegedly hand-picked their company to do public relations work for the power utility.

Court heard the two were hired despite the fact that Zesa Holdings has a fully-fledged public relations department whose personnel are still on payroll.

The arrangement resulted in the power utility losing thousands of dollars as Zesa had to pay Fruitful Communications consultations fees at the same time paying its employees' salaries.

Court heard Fruitful Communications was paid $12 650 for the projects.

Prosecutors said ZPC could have suffered a prejudice of 36 000 for the projects.

Trial continues Wednesday.

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