Air Zim boss spills beans

HARARE - Former Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited manager and company secretary Grace Nyaradzai Pfumbidzai, facing fraud charges, yesterday claimed that some board members had “falsely raised charges against her to protect their business interests.”

Pfumbidzai, 49, is jointly charged with Peter Chikumba, 59, and Innocent Mavhunga, 53.

During her bail application yesterday, Pfumbidzai, through her lawyer Andrew Muvirimi, told Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe that she was targeted by the former airline’s board chairperson Ozias Bvute and the firm’s non-executive director Nathan Chikono, who is also Champions Insurance’s managing director.

Pfumbidzai, who worked for the airline for 29 years, claims she was targeted after she queried the awarding of lucrative contracts to companies associated with the two board members.

According to Muvirimi, Champions Insurance has since taken over management of the airline’s insurance portfolio, without the involvement of the Tender Board.

He said her client raised the issue of conflict of interest, which did not go down well with the board members.

“Second accused (Pfumbidzai) for interfering with the process stepped on some pretty delicate toes and was headed for a collision course with the board, hence the reason they started looking for matters which happened with Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited,” Muvirimi said.

Muvirimi further told the court that the State had no strong case against his client. He said complaints against her were being raised by the board of Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited, yet the issues relate to a separate entity, Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited.

He also queried if it was by coincidence that the airline’s banking account which was previously with CBZ is now with Metropolitan Bank, where Bvute is a group chief executive officer (CEO).

Muvirimi said it was not by coincidence that the chairperson of the disciplinary board that determined his client’s case was from a law firm, whose senior partner is a member of the board of directors of Metropolitan Bank.

“We do not have Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Private) Limited complaining in this matter. This is the reason I indicated that the directors of Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited have strong reasons to falsely incriminate second accused (Pfumbidzai) in this matter,” Muvirimi said.

Muvirimi together with Ticharwa Garabga, who appeared on behalf of Mavhunga, the airline’s acting group CEO, but currently on suspension, told the court that their clients were suitable candidates for bail and would not abscond if freed.

Garabga said Mavhunga was innocent until proven guilty and hence was entitled to his freedom.

Mahwe postponed the bail ruling to today.

Pfumbidzai is appearing on another record together with Peter Chikumba, Air Zimbabwe’s ex-boss, and currently Celebration Centre’s CEO. The two are accused of criminal abuse of duty as public officers and fraud.
Their bail application on the matter was deferred to today before magistrate Vakayi Douglas Chikwekwe.

The court heard that charges against Pfumbidzai and Chikumba arose last year, after an anomaly was discovered by Bvute, on amounts paid between April 2009 and April 2013, to a company called Navistar Insurance Brokers (Private) Limited in respect of aviation insurance premiums.

State alleges the duo enlisted the services of Navistar to provide aviation and insurance cover, without going to tender, while services of other existing companies were terminated.

The two are further accused of inflating aviation insurance premiums together with their alleged accomplices, Givemore Nderere, Vukile Hlupo and Orten Mawire, who are still at large.

Inflated payments were allegedly made to Colemont Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited and Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited, both United Kingdom-based companies.

The firm allegedly released €15 452, 93 to Navistar, €10 607 859, 22 to the two British companies, while they pocketed €5 895 695, 49.

In May 2009, it is alleged the duo and their three accomplices on the run, also misrepresented to Air Zimbabwe that there was an urgent need for the airline to pay $142 300 to the European Commission to dodge sanctions.

They allegedly converted the money to their own use.

The court heard that Pfumbidzai and Mavhunga originated fictitious debit notes in the sum of $1 659 276, 58 in 2012.

The money was purportedly requested for the aviation insurance premiums for two leased A320 airbuses.

The transaction was reportedly intercepted by auditors, but the airline had already released $360 448, 68, the court heard.

It is alleged the duo further claimed $800 000 for aviation insurance, but the board later discovered that the premiums were fully covered during the period.

Comments (12)

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Irrrigation Matters - 18 February 2014

Chorusing the tune is not enough, they should sing the full lyrics of the national anthem for the country has bled enough.

Mukanya - 18 February 2014

Kuba kwakadai is a sign of a corporate governance crisis of epic proportions. Where are the leaders of the nation????

Peter - 18 February 2014

1) We want NIEB investigated on how money was used in the community ownership trusts. 2)We want to know how ZPS and ZRP farms are being managed in the provinces and districts. 3) We want to know how money paid by us the suffering parents are being used in Universities and schools. Are our children going to trips as prescribed. Are laboratories being built. Are books being bought from the levies we pay. 4) Are salaries the only scandals in Councils? What about their procurement processes. 5) Whats happening at VID? Why is it that most people part with $150-$200 to then pass? Why are VID officers finishing building their houses in 3 months?? 6) How are medicines being bought in Hospitals? Why are we refered to private clinics belonging to government doctors?? 7) Why are permenant secretaries like Charamba benefitting from positions they should provide a monitoring role? Why did we hear of what he earned in 2013 only at PSMAS? We want to hear of other years. Why hasnt he paid back? 8) Did Jonathan Moyo payback the Ford Foundation money? 9) Why are most cabinet members multiple farm owners? The media should not lie that they are doing investigative journalism when they only go for easy stories. I am tired of it.

Smile - 18 February 2014

Just the tip of a huge iceberg. Pray everything will come to light so the country can be cleansed of these corruption and kleptomaniac demons.

zvikomborero - 19 February 2014

Where can you go from his presence.The Lord has been watching you guys and its now pay back time. lsela ngelibanjiweyo. Mabatwa.

Jerry V - 19 February 2014

I believe NSSA needs agent attention. We want to know how they are using and investing these monies the are taking from us compulsarily and then give us nuts for funerals and on retirement. On inception they started with corruption how about now more than 15 years after inception. It is rumoured that there are bosses who are getting cars every 3 to 5 years of useage.

lionel - 19 February 2014

Its a pandermic now and that is all caused by having one gievrnment for too long and we are now reaping the rewards. If the country's leadership was changing then these scandals would not have happened. This country has not known any givernment other than the corrupt ZanuPf gvt which has been corrupt from the days of the liberation struggle. Some will say we had a GNU but 'Mu Office muna Bob nyatsoterera unzwe kutonga' so the GNU was just a window dresser. This lady might be corrupt but she is being nailed by the corrupt.

Maita Manyuka - 19 February 2014

The country need an engine overhaul, the system is rot. Its whom you know that determines outcome from the courts. Nehanda uripiko...

John Qwembo - 19 February 2014

bvute in there again.

s - 19 February 2014

Mazimbo makapusa.Dai dziri dzimwe nyika dzinevanhu vane njere neunhu tingadai ta ona massive resignation.Vanhu ava mbavha nevano vaapointer think its their right to steal and plander because they liberated the country.IN short and sweet words that is EMPLOY,DEVELOP,INDEGINISE AND EMPLOYE of the highest level.MUSACHEMA mazwokuda.I never vote for anyone inmy life.Mwari chete ndiye wandaivotera dai achi voterwa kwete mbavha idzi.

Wasu - 19 February 2014

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