Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust (ZIFFT) executive director Nakayi Zivayi Rose Matema is alleged to have fraudulently withdrawn funds from the organisation’s trust account after forging a colleague’s signature, also a signatory to the account.
ZIFFT holds an account with Merchant Bank of Central Africa (MBCA).
Matema (40) was arrested in November last year after allegedly presenting an indemnity letter with a forged signature of one of the signatories, Rachel Pfungwa Kupara, intending to withdraw $700 from the organisation’s account.
Matema appeared before Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini for trial last week facing a charge of fraud.
It is alleged that Matema, initially withdrew $2 500 from the ZIFFT account in September last year after she had allegedly forged Kupara’s signature on a ZIFFT indemnity letter which she presented to MBCA purportedly signed by Kupara.
It is further alleged that Matema again allegedly attempted to withdraw $10 000 at the end of September but failed to access the amount after an alert bank teller discovered that the second signatory signature purportedly by Kupara differed from the specimen signature held in the bank.
The court heard that when the bank teller discovered the anomaly, Kupara was contacted but denied ever signing the indemnity letter authorising Matema to access the funds from the trust account.
After being asked to wait during the verification process in the bank, Matema is alleged to have disappeared.
She allegedly resurfaced in November but her luck ran out following a report by a bank teller who discovered the discrepancy in the signatures and caused her arrest.
In her defence, Matema pleaded not guilty to the fraud charge and raised a defence of necessity.
She maintained that as the sole executive director she had unfettered authority to manage and control the financial affairs of ZIFFT, however, through ineptness and maladministration in the running of the organisation by its trustees, Kupara was then made a signatory to the ZIFFT account.
Matema told the court that because of the exigencies of the business of ZIFFT, she was at times unable to secure Kupara’s signature on time and as a measure to safeguard the business of the ZIFFT from being interrupted she had no choice but to forge Kupara’s signature.
Matema denied that the money so withdrawn was ever intended to be put to her own use. She maintained that it was put to the use of the ZIFFT programmes.
Matema is expected to appear on Thursday this week for judgment.