EMBATTLED former cabinet minister Walter Mzembi was Wednesday dragged to court answering to two $1, 6 million theft charges after he allegedly squandered the money which was meant for United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) 2013.
Mzembi, 54, was charged together with Tourism and Hospitality ministry consultant Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa, 62, and the ex-permanent secretary Margret Sangarwe, 59.
The three were released on $300 bail with state’s consent.
Harare magistrate, Rumbidzayi Mugwagwa, remanded them to March 7 pending their trial.
Mzembi’s lawyer, Job Sikhala, complained that the state was now abusing its powers by mounting charges on Mzembi burdening him with bail finance.
He notified the state that he will challenge the arrest and placement on remand of his client on February 13.
The three were charged with theft of trust property and ordered to continue residing at their present addresses, surrender passports and report to the police Commercial Crimes Division every Friday.
According to State papers, Mushoriwa was one of the consultants contracted by Tourism Ministry to source funds on its behalf for the UNWTO General Assembly preparations and hosting.
Sometime in 2011 Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to co-host the 20th UNWTO General Assembly Convention in August 2013 and Mzembi’s ministry was tasked to spearhead fundraising.
On May 15 2012, the 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 and they took instructions from Mzembi.
The court heard that between May 2012 and August 2013 Mzembi wrote several letters on government letterheads to corporate world inviting sponsorship and 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. Court heard between September 7, 2012 and August 125, 2013 Mbada Diamonds made several deposits amounting to $810 000 into the ZB 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 Mining 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.
The court heard that after UNWTO the accused persons connived and failed to surrender the cars to the ministry but converted them to personal use.
It was alleged that Kahudzayi sold hers to a third party who has not yet been established.
The State was prejudiced of $184 000.
On the second count, Mzembi and Mushoriwa are being charged for misappropriating $1, 6 million during the same event with State alleging that $261 386 was recovered.