THE ongoing Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) insurance scam saga which has landed the airline’s three top managers behind bars took a new twist yesterday with former acting managing director Grace Pfumbidzai accusing ex-board chairperson Ozias Bvute of raising trumped-up fraud charges to unseat her.
Pfumbidzai, who has been with the national airliner for 29 years, is appearing in court charged alongside former AirZim group chief executive officer Peter Chikumba and former AirZim acting CEO Innocent Mavhunga over allegations of swindling the national airline of millions of dollars through an insurance scam.
Pfumbidzai, however, through her lawyer Andrew Muvirimi, dismissed allegations levelled against her and told the court that there was more to the accusations than met the eye.
“There are a number of forces at play fomenting these allegations with the objective of pushing out the second accused (Pfumbidzai) and in essence there has been false incrimination and the reason being financial gains to follow should they take control of Air Zimbabwe,” Muvirimi said.
“My client has given me a diagram that shows the directors of AirZim, where they came from and their interests with the airliner, in particular Nathan Chikono and Ozias Bvute.”
Pfumbidzai said it was strange to note that the allegations against her and her colleagues had not been brought by AirZim Holdings, whose board they were answerable to, but rather from a separate entity, AirZim (Pvt) Ltd under the management of Bvute and Chikono.
“The board of AirZim (Pvt) Limited is raising issues about events done in a separate entity called AirZim Holdings (Pvt) (Ltd). We do not have AirZim Holdings complaining in this matter and as I said, the directors of AirZim (Pvt) (Ltd) have strong reasons to incriminate Pfumbidzai in this matter,” Muvirimi said.
The former MD further said since she was unlawfully fired from the airline, several events that were not mere coincidences had taken place.
“Champion Insurance headed by Chikono, who is AirZim board member, has now taken over management of the insurance portfolio and in his case, the tender board was not involved in awarding him the tender,” the lawyer said.
“Champion Insurance itself was also awarded another insurance contract without going to tender of directors and officers liability of $50 000/annum for a limit of $1 million. It was also awarded a temporary importation bond of $100 000/annum for a limit of $5 million.”
Pfumbidzai said it was as a result of her scuttling of Chikono’s programmes, arguing it was a duplication of insurance covering liability that she became his target.
“Champion Insurance would have collected $5 million in one year based on the airline’s estimated passengers for a certain period and Pfumbidzai, by interfering with these plans, she stepped on some pretty delicate toes and was headed for a collision course, hence the reason they started looking for matters which allegedly occurred in AirZim Holdings,” Muvirimi said.
Pfumbidzai further said it could not have been mere coincidence that the AirZim account previously held by CBZ was now under Metropolitan Bank where Bvute is the CEO.
Meanwhile, there was drama in Court Number 6 when Chikumba’s relatives fumed at prison officers for bringing their relative into the courtroom shackled in leg irons.
Chikumba’s brother charged at prison officers just after the court adjournment for lunch demanding an explanation on why Chikumba was in shackles.
The short drama occurred when Chikumba was called into the dock to follow his bail application proceedings by his lawyer Admire Rubaya.
Provincial magistrate Tendai Mahwe is today expected to deliver a ruling on Pfumbidzai and Mavhunga’s bail applications.
Chikumba’s bail application in a matter where he is jointly charged with Pfumbidzai will be heard today before a different provincial magistrate, Douglas Chikwekwe.