FORMER Tourism minister Walter Mzembi yesterday challenged the $1,8 million fraud charge levelled him, claiming the charge is politically motivated.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
The ex-minister is alleged to have fleeced the government when he co-hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in Victoria Falls last year together with his Zambian counterpart.
Through his lawyer Job Sikhala, Mzembi filed his application challenging placement on remand when he appeared before Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa yesterday.
The former Masvingo South MP claimed the State misdirected the court to believe that the permanent secretary in the Tourism ministry was the complainant instead of UNWTO.
Sikhala said if there was any misconduct against Mzembi, there was supposed to be a resolution by the UNWTO General Assembly to have him investigated.
“The State is trying to draw the permanent secretary as the complainant into these charges which are motivated by political persecution. Any fund that was donated towards the hosting of the conference belongs to UNWTO, not the government of Zimbabwe,” Sikhala said.
“If any misconduct was going to be made against Mzembi, there should be a resolution by the General Assembly to investigate him and the government did not provide that.”
Mzembi is also being charged together with Aaron Mushoriwa and Sussana Makombe Kuhudzayi with siphoning the donated funds into an unregistered company called Africa Conventions.
Sikhala said the State misdirected itself by charging Mzembi, who is not a shareholder, signatory or director in the company.
“Mzembi is not a director or a signatory, where do they link him in activities of a private company? The court is being used to settle political scores. It’s no longer the court of seeking justice. The agreement to hire Africa Conventions was done by former permanent secretary Sylvester Maunganidze, who should be the one to answer to that,” he said.
Sikhala submitted that the theft of motor vehicle charge against Mzembi was also trumped up, as the said stolen motor vehicle was currently in the hands of the Tourism ministry.
He further said the vehicle was registered in the name of the UNWTO corporate resources mobilisation trust and was left with the ministry when Mzembi was transferred to another ministry.
The State, represented by Michael Reza, opposed the application, saying Mzembi must go to trial and answer questions relating to why he authorised donated funds to be deposited into an unregistered company.
“It’s true that he was not a signatory to the said company, but we want him to answer questions in trial on why he registered the donated assets into a non-registered trust and also deposit donated money into an unregistered company,” Reza said.
The matter was remanded to February 19 for ruling.