Mupfumira remanded in custody over US$95m

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BY CHARLES LAITON

PROSECUTOR General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi has issued a special certificate requesting acting Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi to detain Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Priscah Mupfumira for 21 days pending investigations into the matter in which she is alleged to have swindled the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) of over US$95,6 million.

Mupfumira is accused of having misappropriated the money while she was Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister and was yesterday remanded in custody to today by Mutevedzi, who is expected to give a determination on whether Hodzi’s certificate is valid to ensure that the minister is caged for the requested three weeks.

Hodzi made the application in terms of section 32 (3b) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

The PG’s office, represented by Michael Reza, Andrew Kumire, Lovech Masuku and Justin Uladi, presented a chronological order of events in which Mupfumira is
alleged to have used her ministerial position to influence NSSA to part with various sums of money, some of which were allegedly disbursed to her personal
company.

According to the State, Mupfumira’s alleged shenanigans started sometime in 2014 following her appointment as Public Service minister.

She is alleged to have intentionally acted contrary to or inconsistent with her duties as a public officer, verbally instructed then Public Service ministry
permanent secretary (PS) Ngoni Masoka to get a loan advance of US$90 000 from NSSA for the purchase of her vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser.

The State alleges when she so acted in that manner, she knew that NSSA had no authority to issue such loans and after having illegally acquired the vehicle,
she went on to receive a ministerial vehicle, a Range Rover from government which she accepted despite having already obtained one through the NSSA loan.

But, in her submissions through her lawyer Charles Chinyama, who was being assisted by Tinofara Hove, Ray Tsvakwi and Zivanayi Makwanya, Mupfumira said there
was nothing amiss that she received two vehicles, her being a Cabinet minister.

Chinyama urged the court to consider granting her bail in terms of section 50 (1) (d) of the Constitution.

Chinyama further said: “The minister is not an accounting officer of her ministry. If there was, an application for a loan to purchase a vehicle that
application was not done by the minister, but by the PS of the ministry. Further to that the vehicles were not allocated by her, but the ministry.”

“If there was an abuse of office, it should be the PS. The PS does not report to the minister but to the Office of the President and Cabinet. Therefore, NSSA
will have to look at government for repayment of the vehicle loan, it being the major shareholder.”

In its further allegations, the State further said sometime in 2016 and on different occasions, Mupfumira again unlawfully and corruptly used her position to request money amounting to US$101 814 from NSSA corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget which she received and used for various activities, adding she

also in 2017 acted contrary to her duties as a public officer and verbally directed NSSA to set up a budget of US$350 000 for the ministry’s financial demands on top of the normal NSSA CSR budget from where she later claimed a total of US$303 520.

But Mupfumira dismissed the claims, arguing that the State was making bold assertions that were not backed by any evidence, adding that her not being an
accounting officer, there was nowhere she could have influenced NSSA to part ways with such huge sums of money.

Chinyama said the State papers were clear in that they were indicating who paid the money and the payee and for what purpose.

He also said Mupfumira did not receive any cash, serve for a few transactions which indicated that the money paid to her was for allowances on her trips while
on duty.

Again, the State said in 2014, Mupfumira corruptly used her position by showing favour to Metbank when she instructed NSSA to financially bail out the
struggling bank against representations and advice from NSSA’s risk management department, highlighting concerns over the bank’s financial vulnerability. The
State said NSSA ended up purchasing four Metbank properties worth US$4 904 750 which they had not intended to purchase.

As if that was not enough, the State also alleged that in March 2017, Mupfumira criminally abused her office by showing favour to Metbank, again when she
directed NSSA to favourably consider an investment proposal from the bank for Command Agriculture.

The State further said when Metbank intended to borrow US$30 million from somewhere, it requested NSSA to provide it with double cover security in the form of
Treasury Bills and as a result of Mupfumira’s involvement, NSSA released treasury bills in the sum of US$62 250 000 to Metbank .

The State also alleges that in August 2017, contrary to her position as a minister, she verbally directed NSSA to enter into a contract with Drawcard (Private)
Limited for US$6,5 million housing project in Munyeza, Gweru, without going to tender and without the board’s resolution.

Mupfumira dismissed the claims, saying NSSA would not have agreed to release such large sums of money without the approval of its board, which comprises of
three qualified senior lawyers.