13 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Mzembi Refuses to Be Prosecuted By the State, Says Only UNWTO Has the Right to Press Charges Against Him

Photo: The Herald
Former cabinet minister Walter Mzembi (file photo).

Former cabinet minister Walter Mzembi who is facing several criminal charges is declining to be prosecuted by the state in a case in which he is accused of squandering $1, 6 million which was meant for United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) 2013.

Through his lawyer, Job Sikhala, Mzembi challenged his placement on remand, Tuesday arguing that only international law applied in his case.

He argued that UNWTO should be the complainant in his case as such he was wrongfully before the court.

However prosecutor Michael Reza challenged his application saying Mzembi indeed stole the money and there was overwhelming evidence against him.

"How a minister can register donations in a non-regulated company, one will wonder if he was given the authority to claim the property by the UN agency and that's the questions he will have to answer when his trial commences," said the prosecutor.

Mzembi, 54, is being charged together with Tourism and Hospitality ministry consultant Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa, 62, and the ex-permanent secretary Margret Sangarwe, 59.

The three were charged with theft of trust property charges.

According to State papers, Mushoriwa was one of the consultants contracted by Tourism Ministry to source funds on behalf of government for UNWTO General Assembly preparations and hosting.

Sometime in 2011 Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to co-host the 20th UNWTO General Assembly Convention and Mzembi's ministry was tasked to fundraise for the event.

On May 15 2012, the ministry entered a contract with professional conference organisers, Rosemary Mukogo, Mushoriwa and Susan Makombe Kahudzayi who is still at large.

The contract was for the consultants to source funding from the corporate world and assist in managing the UNWTO project and they took instructions from Mzembi.

The court heard that between May 2012 and August 2013 Mzembi wrote several letters on government letterheads to corporate world inviting sponsorship and Mushoriwa and Sangarwe would forward them to selected organisations.

It was alleged that Mbada Diamonds pledged to donate $2, 5 million when they were approached and a bank account was supposed to be opened to receive the funds.

Mzembi then instructed Mushoriwa and Kahudzayi to open a bank account in the name of an unregistered company (Conventions Africa) with ZB bank.

Mushoriwa and Kahudzayi were signatories to the ZB bank account, it was alleged.

Court heard between September 7, 2012 and August 12, 2013 Mbada Diamonds made several deposits amounting to $810 000 into the ZB bank account.

After receiving the funds, Mushoriwa connived with Kahudzayi and transferred $150 000 to Croco Motors for purchase of three Ford Ranger Double Cabs and registered them in the name of UNWTO Trust which was non-existent.

The court heard that Mushoriwa and Kahudzayi also received a Tata Xenon Double Cab that was fully paid for by Mimosa Mining at $33 626.

According to State papers, Mzembi then gave orders for the motor vehicles to be distributed and he got a Ford Ranger, Mushoriwa obtained a Tata Xenon Double Cab, while Sangarwe and Kahudzayi each got Ford Rangers.

The court heard that after UNWTO conference the accused persons connived and failed to surrender the cars to the ministry but converted them to personal use.

It was alleged that Kahudzayi sold hers to a third party who has not yet been established.

The State was prejudiced $184 000.

On the second count, Mzembi and Mushoriwa are being charged with misappropriating $1, 6 million during the same event with State alleging that $261 386 was recovered.

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