FORMER Tourism minister Walter Mzembi and his alleged accomplice, Aaron Mushoriwa, appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court yesterday facing $1,6 million theft of trust property allegations.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Mzembi and Mushoriwa, an international conference organiser, face another allegation of $184 336 theft of trust property where they are being charged together with former Tourism ministry permanent secretary Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe.
They were not asked to plead when they appeared before magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa. They were remanded to March 7 on $300 bail each which will cover both records.
Mzembi’s lawyer, Job Sikhala, immediately filed a notice to challenge his client’s placement on remand arguing that his client’s arbitrary arrest by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission was a clear abuse of State power.
Allegations are that in 2011, when Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to host 20th United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in August 2013, Mzembi’s ministry came up with various avenues to raise the money for hosting of the event.
Mzembi allegedly initiated the engagement of consultants whose mandate was to fundraise with both local and international companies, donors and financiers.
It is alleged this led to the signing of a 24-month contract between Mushoriwa’s Professional Conference Organisers (PCO) and the Ministry of Tourism commencing on May 1 2012 and Mzembi was to supervise and give instructions to the contractors.
The State alleges Mushoriwa and one Susanna Makombe Kuhudzayi, who is still at large, formed a consultancy company, Conventions Africa, which was not registered. They were allegedly signatories to the PCO contract they entered into with the Ministry of Tourism.
It is alleged Mushoriwa and Kuhudzayi then opened a bank account in the name of Conventions Africa, with ZB Bank and made themselves signatories to the account.
It is the State’s case that using letters written on Government of Zimbabwe letterheads and originated from Mzembis’s office, Mushoriwa and Kuhudzayi approached the corporate world seeking donations in cash and kind, purportedly towards the UNWTO General Assembly.
The corporate world allegedly responded believing that they were donating to the Ministry of Tourism towards the UNWTO conference and deposited money into Mushoriwa and Kuhudzayi’s unregistered company.
It is alleged Mbada Diamonds donated about $1,6 million towards the UNWTO conference of which $810 000 was transferred directly into Conventions Africa’s account.
Mushoriwa and Kuhudzayi, acting allegedly in connivance with Mzembi, allegedly withdrew money amounting to $1,6 million from Conventions Africa’s account on various occasions.
It is alleged using the funds and donations received, Mzembi, Mushoriwa, Kuhudzai and Saungweme bought three Ford Ranger double cab vehicles from Croco Motors and received another Tata Xenon double cab vehicle from Mimosa Mine.
At the end of the UNWTO conference, the accused allegedly shared the vehicles among themselves and Kuhudzayi allegedly sold his vehicle to an unsuspecting third party.
The State alleges $1,6 million was stolen and only $261 386 was recovered.