'Mzembi skipped court over cancer treatment'

HARARE - Former Cabinet minister Walter Mzembi yesterday told the court that he was undergoing cancer treatment in South Africa when he missed a court hearing.

Mzembi — who is facing a slew of corruption charges — was represented by Job Sikhala who tendered proof that his client was battling cancer, and had missed a court session because he was undergoing treatment.

A warrant of arrest had been issued against him and he was moving to have it cancelled. 

“We notify the State that we shall be filing for further remand refusal on the next court date if my client if not issued a trial date. He has had an operation and is due for review next month. The court is assured that he will be available on August 30,” Sikhala said.

The State alleged that Mzembi misappropriated funds meant for the 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly.

Mzembi, 54, Tourism and Hospitality ministry consultant Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa, 62, and the ex-permanent secretary Margret Sangarwe, 59, are being charged with theft of trust property.

According to State papers, Mushoriwa was one of the consultants contracted by Tourism ministry to source funds on its behalf for UNWTO General Assembly preparations and hosting.

On May 15, 2012, Tourism and Hospitality ministry entered a contract with professional conference organisers, Rosemary Mukogo, Mushoriwa and Susan Makombe Kahudzayi who is still at large. The contract was for the consultants to source funding from the corporate world and assist in managing the UNWTO project. They reportedly took instructions from Mzembi.

The court heard that between May 2012 and August 2013, Mzembi wrote several letters on government letterheads to the corporate world inviting sponsorship.  Mushoriwa and Sangarwe would forward them to selected organisations.

It was alleged that Mbada Diamonds pledged to sponsor $2, 5 million when they were approached and a bank account was supposed to be opened to receive the funds.

The court heard that Mzembi then instructed Mushoriwa and Kahudzayi to open a bank account in the name of an unregistered company Conventions Africa with ZB bank.
Mushoriwa and Kahudzayi were signatories to the ZB bank account, it was alleged.

Between September 7, 2012 and August 12, 2013 Mbada Diamonds made several deposits amounting to $81 000 into the ZB bank account.

After receiving the funds, Mushoriwa connived with Kahudzayi and transferred $150 000 to Croco Motors for purchase of three Ford Ranger Double Cabs and registered them in the name of UNWTO Trust, which was not existent.

The court heard that Mushoriwa and Kahudzayi also received a Tata Xenon Double Cab that was fully paid for by Mimosa Minning at $33 626.

According to State papers, Mzembi then gave orders for the motor vehicles to be distributed and he got a Ford Ranger, Mushoriwa obtained a Tata Xenon Double Cab, while Sangarwe and Kahudzai each got Ford Rangers.

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