BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
FORMER Public Service minister Petronella Kagonye was yesterday sentenced to three years in prison following her conviction on charges of corruption and criminal abuse of office after she converted 20 laptops donated to schools in Goromonzi to personal use.
Sentencing her, Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guwuriro said Kagonye betrayed the trust bestowed on her as a top civil servant.
“The court takes cognisance that the accused was a former minister and she is the best person to see schools within her constituency benefiting, but she decided to take the bread away from the hungry children,” Muchuchuti-Guwuriro said in her ruling.
Kagonye will, however, spend 16 months in jail after 12 months were suspended on condition of good behaviour, while eight months were set aside on condition she restitutes the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) US$10 000 equivalent to the laptops she stole.
The magistrate said theft of public funds and property could not be tolerated.
“A crime as such is a problem to democracy and social welfare. The conviction will certainly be severe punishment on its own. With the serious underdevelopment problems the country is facing it is sad that one can steal public funds. There is a need for the accused to restitute the value of the computers so that those meant to benefit still benefit,” the magistrate said.
In mitigation, Kagonye had pleaded with the court for a fine, saying she was the sole breadwinner.
Muchuchuti-Guwuriro said Kagonye had requested a donation of computers to give to Goromanzi South schools, but no computers were given to the schools.
The court heard that between June 2018 and July 2019, Kagonye wrote to former Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira requesting computers to donate to schools in Goromonzi.
On June 20, 2018, Mandiwanzira wrote to Potraz requesting facilitation of the donations through its e-learning project to Goromonzi South schools.
Potraz then donated the computers to Kagonye, which were collected by her brother Evans on her behalf and he signed the collection form.
But the computers could not be accounted for when Potraz made a follow-up, leading to the former minister’s arrest.
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