High-level corruption claims first scalps

There was drama at the Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday where convicted former Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) chief executive officer Peter Chikumba and the airline’s former company secretary Grace Pfumbidzai’s relatives openly wept after the two were slapped with a 10-year jail term each for defrauding the national airline of millions of dollars.

BY CHARLES LAITON

The two, however, will each serve an effective seven-year jail term after the magistrate suspended three years on condition of good behaviour.

Chikumba (60) and Pfumbidzai (50) were on Thursday this week convicted of criminal abuse of office after a fully contested trial before
Harare magistrate Fadzai Mtombeni on allegations that they siphoned over $8 million from the struggling national airline through an insurance scam.

In her reasons for sentence, Mtombeni said there was need to imprison the pair and send a clear message to any would-be offenders more so given the fact that corruption was on the increase in the country.

“A civilised society does not want a sentence that destroys an accused person . . ., but there was a lot of prejudice that was caused to AirZim since the two accused persons benefited a lot,” Mtombeni said.

The magistrate further said the offence committed by the two was so serious that it would in normal circumstances attract up to 15-year imprisonment, but given their ages and them being first offenders they deserved a lesser sentence, but without escaping a term of imprisonment.

During the long-running trial, Chikumba distanced himself from the offence and fingered Pfumbidzai whom he said acted unilaterally when she appointed Navistar Insurance Brokers (Private) Limited as the airline’s insurer in contravention of company policy regarding the awarding of business contracts.

But in her defence, Pfumbidzai said Chikumba chaired a meeting that resolved to engage Navistar.

Prosecutor Daniel Muchimbiri proved that Chikumba and Pfumbidzai’s criminal activities surfaced after an anomaly was discovered by former AirZim board chairman Ozias Bvute pertaining to amounts paid between April 2009 and April 2013 to Navistar in respect of aviation insurance premiums.

The court heard the two former bosses appointed Navistar to provide aviation and insurance cover without going to tender after terminating the services of other existing companies.

The two, according to the evidence presented in court, also inflated aviation insurance premiums over payments made to United Kingdom-based Colemonte Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited and Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited.

The national airline then released ₤15 452,93 to Navistar, ₤10 607 859,22 to the two British companies and pocketed ₤5 895 695,49.

In May 2009, the two also misrepresented to AirZim that there was urgent need for the airline to pay $142 300 to the European Commission to dodge sanctions, but subsequently converted the money to their own use.

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11 Comments

  1. Kudos the judge at least u were not buttered….we need more men like mtombeni with steel balls

  2. Kudos the judge at least u were not buttered….we need more men like mtombeni with steel balls

  3. thou shalt not steal

    Mtombeni is a woman, sir

  4. If they can arrest one zanu pf thief like Chombo or Obert Mpofi we will know how serious they are in fighting corruption for now they are only fooling around.

    1. voice of reason

      but it was Obert Mpofu who spear headed this case by taking these criminals to court. so is your comment purely for the hate of anything zanu pf or just arrogance perpetuated by foolishery

  5. It’s good that the thieves are jailed

  6. Journalists investigate ZESA too. Whose company is casting the concrete poles that are sold to residents applying for first time connections? The poles are made in ZESA’s own Southerton premises and sold privately yet ZESA says they do not have poles!!

  7. Bekimpilo ncube

    Considering the amount involved,I think 7 years is a joke. They are going to serve fewer years compared to someone who stole a single donkey. Yi shit leyi.

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  9. Pfumbidzai and Chikumba have paid dearly by failing to remit a plausible ”’CUT” to Ozias Bvute. Going by the origins of their case OB fingered them.
    If all Chairpersons of all our parastatals were as ” frugal” (made to believe) as OB the rampart
    corruption bedeviling our Society should have been curbed long back.

    Any how ten days in the coolers will make them revise the sharing formula – forgoing the lust of greediness.

  10. Justice Mtombeni

    Typical Zimbabweans good at judging others so quickly. Following the case , they were acquitted on Fraud and all the other charges except abuse of office which also is very questionable and difficulty to prove . Suppose they were guilty why do we only have photos and focus on Grace. The Herald has done its job to the gullible Zimbabweans as usual . People are being sacrificed and persecuted with the public cheering with no shame . Chombo , Chiyangwa , Kasukuwere and even Mugabe family have assets which cannot be explained and there was no noise or such humiliation.

    That Mtombeni lady never acted independently and we all know it , she had both political influence and the media but she lacked the most critical requirement which was the law . You say 7 yrs is too little in your comments , too little for what, for your hatred and lack of depth in the law and justice .

    In conclusion High Court deals with the law , facts and justice , so let us talk next month or so on this matter.

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