Mzembi, Undenge arrested

HARARE - Former Cabinet ministers Walter Mzembi and Samuel Undenge were arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) yesterday on charges of abuse of office.

Mzembi was the Foreign Affairs minister before the fall of ex-president Robert Mugabe while Undenge was in charge of the Energy and Power Development portfolio.

At the time of going to print, Mzembi was detained at Malbereign Police Station in Harare while Undenge’s whereabouts could not be immediately ascertained.

Both are likely to appear in court today, according to Goodson Nguni, the Zacc chairperson responsible for investigations.

Nguni also revealed that the corruption watchdog had completed investigations into former vice president (VP) Phelekezela Mphoko, who faces charges of defeating the course of justice.

“We have detained former minister Walter Mzembi and Samuel Undenge over corruption-related charges,” said Nguni.

“They will appear in court tomorrow. We have also forwarded the docket on former VP Mphoko to the National Prosecuting Authority. Mphoko, if you remember, unlawfully and forcefully ordered the release of suspects from police custody at Avondale Police Station. That docket is now complete.

“As Zacc, we are pursuing a host of other officials who served in the previous administration and whom we want to answer to corruption-related charges,” added Nguni.

In July last year, Mphoko reportedly descended on Avondale Police Station in Harare at night and ordered the release of top Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) officials who had been arrested by Zacc on graft allegations involving over $1,3 million.

Mphoko, who was acting president at the time, arrived at the police station at night and secured the immediate release of the duo on the grounds that they were “his boys”.

Mugabe was away in Rwanda when this happened.

Mphoko was also acting president in May this year when he allegedly caused a storm after he reportedly stormed into Bulawayo Central Police Station, and expressed anger over the arrest of several Zanu PF activists in connection with the intra-party violence that had occurred at the party’s provincial offices at Davis Hall.

He also reportedly secured their release.

Mzembi’s lawyer Job Sikhala confirmed his client’s arrest.

“Yes, Mzembi is detained. They are making old allegations that he donated some television screens to (Emmanuel) Makandiwa’s church, Walter Magaya’s church, (Nehemiah) Mutendi’s church and the University of Zimbabwe during the World Cup,” he said.

“They were saying it was contrary to the duties of his office. We are appearing in court tomorrow.”

Mzembi has previously been accused of abusing vehicles received during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2013.

He has also been criticised for awarding contracts to his wife, Barbara, without going to tender.

Regarding Undenge, Zacc has been pursuing the politician in connection with the multi-million dollar energy tenders supplied to high-living Harare businessman, Wicknell Chivayo’s company, Intratrek Zimbabwe.

Undenge has previously denied having played a role in Chivayo’s tenders by arguing that when he became minister in 2015, the Harare businessman had already clinched the tenders.

Undenge took over from Dzikamai Mavhaire who was one of several bigwigs sacked from government and Zanu PF in the run up to the party’s congress of 2014.

Chivayo has been staring down the barrel over the past few weeks over the power deals which he signed with Zesa Holdings and its subsidiary the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) — which have come under the spotlight after his company, Intratrek, apparently failed to deliver on them.

Among the deals, the burly businessman — who is often referred to by his associates as Sir Wicknell — was awarded a $200 million tender for the Gwanda Solar Project.

ZPC senior management now stand accused of advancing $5 million to him for this project’s pre-commencement works, despite Chivayo not providing a performance guarantee as required by law.

The performance guarantee acts as financial security and is supposed to be presented by the contractor before the commencement of works. It insulates the client in the event that the contractor fails to fulfil obligations set out in the contract.

Chivayo was also awarded a further $73 million for the refurbishment of the Harare Power Station, $163 million for the restoration of the Munyati Power Station, and $248 million for the Gairezi Power project by the ZPC.

Apart from Zesa board meeting to review Chivayo’s contracts, Parliament has said that it is gathering facts on his projects before making a determination.

Chivayo was ordered to submit his bank statements, contract documents and cash books to the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate as part of widening investigations into the Zesa deals

Undenge and Mzembi’s arrest came as President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed to clamp down on corruption.

They join former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, ex- Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa, former Sport minister Makhosini Hlongwane, ex-Mines secretary Francis Gudyanga, former Zanu PF youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga and other bigwigs who have been arraigned before the courts on various charges since Mugabe’s exit.

Yesterday, sources said Zacc investigators had visited the homes of lawmaker Psychology Maziwisa and journalist Oscar Pambuka whom they want to interview in connection with their telecommunications company, FruitLink Communications, which handled public relations activities on behalf of power utility Zesa Holdings.

Zesa has a fully functional PR department and Zacc suspects that FruitLink was corruptly awarded the contract.

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