21 July 2018

Zimbabwe: Ex-Energy Minister Undenge Jailed

Former Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge, who was accused of prejudicing the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) of $12 650, was yesterday sentenced to an effective two-and-a-half years in prison. Undenge appeared before Harare regional magistrate Mr Hoseah Mujaya facing charges of abuse of office and was convicted after a full trial.

He was sentenced to four years in prison, with one-and-a-half years suspended on condition he does not commit a similar crime.

Undenge in 2016 handpicked a public relations company owned by zanu-pf legislator Psychology Maziwisa and former ZBC news anchor Oscar Pambuka to do work for ZPC without going to tender.

While Undenge looked shocked at the sentence, his wife Letina remained calm in the gallery. Letina was however, later seen wailing outside the courtroom.

Undenge's lawyer Mr Aleck Muchadehama had proposed a $50 fine or community service.

"Given the background of the matter, the accused could have thought he was doing the right thing. The accused has also already attracted a lot of media publicity which has been stressful for him. Therefore, I propose that a fine of $50 would be suitable for the case in default payment or 30 days imprisonment," he said.

Prosecuting, Mr Jonathan Murombedzi argued that the court had to jail Undenge to discourage corruption. He said Undenge was trying to hide behind Pambuka and Maziwisa when he was infact guilty.

"The accused's blameworthiness in circumstances is very high. He was a good steward and he was a minister in a portfolio that involved anti-corruption.

"He knew well that stooping so low in doing business with Oscar Pambuka and Psychology Maziwisa was unlawful. The fact that they went to him after payments from ZPC stopped meant that he knew what was going on," said Mr Murombedzi.

"A true minister would not have allowed his office to be used as a playground by Oscar and Maziwisa. As for the issue of the message sent to the Zimbabwean public, the way the public views such matters is a way of looking at honour and integrity.

Letting people with cases like this go has eroded the confidence of our public in the Government system."

Mr Murombedzi said once an accused person who has been a Government official is convicted, there is no way they can escape imprisonment.

He further proposed that Undenge had to be jailed for an effective five years as he had betrayed the trust that the Government of Zimbabwe had placed on him.

Mr Mujaya ruled that the fact that only a few cases of corruption had been dealt with was demeaning to the justice system and Undenge should have at least apologised to the nation for the way he acted.

Mr Mujaya said community service for Undenge would bring disrepute to the courts.

"The accused is advanced in age and circumstance. He has contributed as a father, a Member of Parliament and diplomat.

"However, evidence has shown that the accused was favouring fellow zanu-pf Member of Parliament Mr Maziwisa and this cannot be dismissed.

"Investors will disappear if we continue to let such matters go (unpunished). Corruption denied the nation of good administration and no statistics are needed to determine the level of corruption in the country," he said.

"Selective prosecution cannot be considered. Therefore, accused is sentenced to four years in prison. One-and-a-half years are suspended on condition that he does not commit the same crime."

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