Acting Prosecutor-General (PG) Kumbirai Hodzi met his match in the magistrates’ court on Tuesday when a top Harare lawyer representing former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere warned him to exercise restraint during prosecution or risk going down the same trail as some of his predecessors.
Hodzi was appointed acting PG in July this year, replacing Ray Goba who had been suspended on allegations of failing to prosecute high-profile corruption cases and putting the name of his office into disrepute by using abusive language and insulting lawyers.
Goba later resigned before a commission of inquiry that had been set up to look into the allegations by President Emmerson Mnangagwa could resume its duties.
On Tuesday, Hodzi took it upon himself to represent the State during the trial of Kasukuwere, who is facing four counts of criminal abuse of office relating to alleged illegal awarding of tenders and parcelling out of land during his tenure as minister of Indigenisation and Local Government, respectively.
He courted the ire of Kasukuwere’s legal representative, Jonathan Samukange, after he told a Harare magistrate that lawyers were burdening courts with unnecessary applications that prolonged trial periods.
“We have overwhelming evidence and I can assure the court that this matter will be dealt with timeously. In a fortnight, the trial date must be ready and the defence should not make unnecessary applications,” Hodzi said during his address.
“As we are talking, there are plenty of applications in the apex courts and the courts are clogged. Our case is quite strong and we have allocated a number of days to ensure the case is finalised.”
This did not go down well with Samukange who was quick to interject and warned Hodzi not to make such “reckless” statements or end up like Johannes Tomana and Goba.
Goba had succeeded Tomana who was hounded out of office for alleged unprofessional conduct.
“That very statement has been made before by Tomana and Goba, do not do that…this is a hot spot and we all know that those two ended up making those very applications themselves. Do not do that!”
Hodzi said he had just made a courtesy call to the magistrates’ court and wanted his appearance to reassure the public that National Prosecuting Authority condemned cases of corruption especially in public offices.
“I thought it was courteous to familiarise myself with the work of my prosecutors and see how they work. From time to time, I will be making myself accessible in courts because cases of abuse of office have public interest and it is incumbent for me to appear in order to reorient the public that we take such matters seriously,” Hodzi said.
Kasukuwere, who was released on $3 000 bail, faces charges of abuse of office.
Allegations against Kasukuwere are that in 2012, the government ran an indigenisation programme that entailed negotiating with foreign-based companies such as Unki Mine, Zimbabwe Platinum Mines and Mimosa Mining Company for them to cede part of their ownership to black Zimbabweans.
The court heard that Kasukuwere was minister of Indigenisation then and presided over a meeting that appointed George Manyere’s company (Brainworks (Private) Limited to do brokering services and financial advisory to government.
He reportedly flouted tender procedures in appointing Manyere’s company contrary to his duties as the minister.
It was further alleged that between February 2016 and March 2017 Kasukuwere directed that three pieces of land be allocated to former first lady Grace Mugabe’s sister, Shuvai Gumbochuma, for the development of residential stands.
In 2015, Gumbochuma applied for land from former minister Ignatius Chombo’s office but failed to raise $424 426 which was the purchase price.
The court heard that Gumbochuma did not have the capacity to pay the amount nor develop the land and created a company called Scanlen (Private) Limited as an alleged means to further her fraudulent plans.
Between August and October 2017, Gumbochuma then sold the land to N-Frays for $2 060 000 without paying for it.
The court heard that N-Frays then paid the intrinsic land value to the ministry and gave the balance to Gumbochuma.
According to the State, Gumbochuma erred by distorting the value of State land from $424 426 to an inflated value of $2 060 000.
Using the same modus operandi, Gumbochuma misrepresented that Rodonior (Private) Limited was a registered company knowing that it was not.
She reportedly applied for land under that company and was allocated 150 hectares in Good Hope
Checks that were later made with the Registrar of Companies unearthed that Rodonior was not registered.
Using the same company, Gumbochuma also applied for land in Chishawasha B in Goromonzi and was granted the request on August 4, 2016.
She was allocated 20 hectares of land but the offer was later withdrawn on September 15, 2016 after it was established that she had used unregistered companies to apply for the land.