Fire officer acquitted of extortion

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City of Harare Fire Brigade divisional officer Erasmus Gudza was last week acquitted on charges of alleged extortion and criminal abuse of office by provincial magistrate Archie Wochiunga.

Gudza’s acquittal comes after a lengthy trial which took almost seven months to be completed.
Gudza was arrested after a representative of GDC-Whelson Transport, Kuno Mawire, alleged he had threatened the closure of GDC on grounds the surface fuel tanks constructed 30 years ago at the company were illegally erected.

Mawire also alleged that Gudza had solicited for a contract for his company and had extorted 473 litres of fuel and forced him to employ his relatives.

However, magistrate Wochiunga ruled that Gudza did not commit the offences as alleged. He said Mawire voluntarily engaged Gudza’s company Lake Fair Services to do work at its Chitungwiza, Workington, Beitbridge and Chirundu depots.

In his evidence, Gudza had said GDC was illegally dealing in foreign currency and offered to pay some of his services through fuel coupons which it disguised as donations.

Wochiunga said Gudza never forced GDC to employ his relatives, but Mawire voluntarily offered them casual jobs.

Gudza had told the court that his relationship with GDC came to a head sometime in September 2009 after Mawire tried to influence him to stop officers from his department from enforcing an order against the transporters and he refused to act corruptly.

Gudza said his denial angered one of GDC directors identified in court as I Silk, who then hatched a plan to eliminate him from the Harare Fire Brigade through false and trumped-up charges.