Harare businesswoman turns heat on police CCU over 'bias'

Court hammer

HARARE businesswoman Barbra Mutambanengwe has lodged a complaint against the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)’s Commercial Crime Unit (CCU) and Assistant Inspector Evans Bota over alleged misconduct in the handling of a shareholding dispute case.

Mutambanengwe is the founder and major shareholder of a diamond polishing company, Kenako Investments.

The company has been subject to a shareholding wrangle where an investor into the company, Martin Simmons, has been accused of trying to launch a hostile takeover against his local partners.

This saw the South African-born Simmons opening a case of fraud against Mutambanengwe and prominent lawyer Munyaradzi Nzarayapenga, who is also a shareholder in the company.

In a letter dated August 25 2022 and directed to the police complaints desk at Police General Headquarters, Mutambanengwe is seeking the transfer of the matter (State vs Barbra Mutambanengwe and Munyaradzi Nzarayapenga CCU DR36/02/22) be transferred to another police department for investigation.

She argues in the letter that the CCU department has been biased in their investigation.

Mutambanengwe alleged that the complainant in the matter, Simmons, is using the criminal justice system to force the company directors into paying money owed to him by Kenako Investments.

“He (Simmons) is abusing the criminal justice system with the aid of the CCU department, which is now harassing us. Nzarayapenga and I are shareholders in Kenako,” Mutambanengwe said in the letter.

According to the letter, in 2015, Dube-Banda Nzarayapenga and Partners (DBN) received US$400 000 from Simmons for onward transmission to Kenako Investments.

The money was an investment loan paid in terms of an agreement signed between the parties on August 4 2015.

Simmons would then hold 70% shareholding in the company until full repayment of the loan. The money was remitted to Kenako and a loan account was opened by the firm in favour of Simmons.

Mutambanengwe alleged that Simmons then ensured that his accountant, Barry Knight, and his son were active participants in the company’s business for accountability purposes.

“All the company financials were prepared and kept by Simmons’ accountant. He was responsible for the company’s payroll,” she stated.

Mutambanengwe in the letter noted that along the course of the loan repayment, government promulgated Statutory Instrument 33 of 2019 before they had finished repaying the loan. As a result, the loan became payable in local currency at the rate of 1:1 by operation of law.

Consequently, when Simmons demanded his money, Kenako asked for ZWL bank account details from Simmons, who refused to furnish the details and went on to demand his money in United States dollars.

Simmons refused to accept payment in local currency and resultantly the two parties failed to agree and a deadlock ensued.

Simmons then proceeded to file a criminal case against the two directors leading to the arrest of Mutambanengwe. The case could not be prosecuted as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) requested further investigations into the matter.

In the letter, Mutambanengwe alleges that she got wind after her release from police custody that Bota met Simmons.

She further alleges that the CCU department was acting on behalf of Simmons and called for an investigation of the department.

“One thing is clear, there was no justification for my arrest and detention. The allegations of fraud against Nzarayapenga and me are false and malicious. They are meant to threaten us by giving in to Simmons’s demands. It is crystal clear that the CCU department is acting for and on behalf of Simmons,” she said in the letter.

Contacted for comment, Bota referred all questions to the police public relations department.

“Can you please get a comment from the public relations department,” Bota said.

Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi promised to comment but had not done so by the time of going to print.

Simmons did not respond to questions sent to him on WhatsApp and text message. He was also not picking calls.

This becomes one of the cases that Simmons has been embroiled in shareholding disputes with women-owned businesses.

In 2020, Bulawayo-based businesswoman, Rebecca Siziba also lodged a complaint to Bulawayo Commercial Crimes Division over the conduct of its detectives on the handling of a US$40 million fraud case involving Simmons.

The fraud case was reported at the Bulawayo Commercial Crimes Division in 2020 and according to a letter by Siziba’s legal team dated July 13 2020, she accused the detectives of dragging their feet on the matter citing possible deliberate move to protect Simmons.

The complaint emanated from a botched mining deal which saw Siziba filing fraud charges against Simmons and she eventually suffered a stroke due to stress.

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