Ex-Air Zim boss Chikumba appeals jail term

JAILED former Air Zimbabwe group chief executive officer Peter Chikumba has filed a notice of appeal against his seven-year jail term arguing that the magistrate who presided over his $8 million fraud case erroneously convicted him.

BY CHARLES LAITON

Chikumba and former Air Zimbabwe company secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi were recently slapped with a seven-year jail term each for swindling the national airline of $8 million in an insurance scam.

Through his lawyer Admire Rubaya, Chikumba said he wondered why Harare regional magistrate Fadzai Mtombeni entered a guilty verdict against him when she had established that his co-accused, Pfumbidzayi, was not a credible witness at all.

Rubaya said, in her judgment, Mtombeni established that Pfumbidzayi “would lie in some aspects and would tell the truth in some aspects, thus was a sophisticated witness, she was the brains behind the appointment” of Navistar Insurance which was the subject matter in the case.

In reference to Pfumbidzayi, Mtombeni said: “She was very calculating and of high acumen. She would contradict herself on material issues. She at one time said ‘shots were called elsewhere’ in trying to justify the appointment of Navistar.

She added: “Pfumbidzayi led evidence that she appointed Navistar for two reasons, the first, in terms of the Procurement Act and, secondly, because of necessity. She led evidence at one stage that she helped head of strategy at AirZim Nobert Machingauta draft the letter to (the Transport ministry) permanent secretary on the 25th of March. She again distanced herself at some stage.

“She led evidence that Machingauta was present when Chikumba told her to appoint Navistar; she again deviated from that position when told that Machingauta was away.”

In the appeal, Rubaya said the magistrate erred in fact and at law when she convicted his client on the basis of Pfumbidzayi’s evidence.

Rubaya further said the magistrate relied on the evidence of one Nyakabau, a “shopped” witness, who gave contradictory evidence and whose evidence was clearly “a recent fabrication”.

“The court erred in fact and at law by sensationalising the case before it and making a finding that the airline was brought to its knees by the actions of the appellant and his co-accused and in so doing it failed or neglected to properly appreciate and consider appellant’s defence and evidence,” Rubaya said.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.

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