By Zvikomborero Parafini
Former tourism minister Walter Mzembi missed court again yesterday. He was supposed to appear in court for commencement of trial.
Mzembi’s alleged accomplices Aaron Mushoriwa, Suzanna Makombe and Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe appeared before Harare regional magistrate Hosea Mujaya.
Special Unit prosecutor Brian Vito, who is leading the State, was absent and was represented by George Manokore who sought a postponement for Vito to make specific submissions in response to the application of refusal of further remand by the three accused persons.
The State indicated that they cannot separate the charges as Mzembi is the principal accused.
However, Mzembi is currently on three ‘administrative’ warrants of arrest after his lawyer Job Sikhala advised the court that he is bedridden from colon cancer and could not stand trial.
Representing Mushoriwa, Farai Mushoriwa said they were only conceding to the application on the basis that trial begins on the next date.
“The state had indicated that they will be ready to proceed to trial on this date but we will concede only on the basis that we proceed on that date in whatever way possible, whether it is trial or what, but we intend to make an application for refusal of further remand as we have been in court since February last year and it is prejudicial to their rights to fair trial within reasonable time,” said Mushoriwa.
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. H Metro