Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
IN yet another case of a growing litany of indiscretions, Vice President Joice Mujuru reportedly abused the power of her office and instructed Zimbabwe Revenue Authority top officials to facilitate the release of trucks carrying illegally imported chickens that were held at Beitbridge Border Post sometime this year without paying duty.
Zimra is now demanding over $4 million in outstanding tax from Harare businessman Mr Yaqub Dawson who sold the firm to VP Mujuru’s nephew Mr Preston Goredema, Mr Christopher Hokonya and Mr Charles Karimazondo in December last year.
Agreement of Sale documents seen by The Herald show that Mr Dawson sold Dawson Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd to DCH Development Consultants (Pvt) Ltd owned by Mr Goredema and Mr Hokonya in December last year, while the tax evasion charges arise from products imported without duty between March and October 2014.
“Subject to the fulfilment by the purchaser of its obligations in terms of this agreement relating to payment of the purchase price and the provision of security, the effective date of this agreement shall be 1st of January 2014,” reads part of the Memorandum of Agreement.
Mr Dawson confirmed yesterday that Zimra wants him to pay duty for imports that he did not make as he no longer owned the company that made the illegal imports.
“We sold the company to Goredema, Hokonya and Karimazondo in December last year although they haven’t paid us the purchase price. We have signed two payment agreements, the first one in December 2013 but had to sign another one in June this year after they failed to pay for the purchase price, so they have now promised to fulfil their obligation.
“Anything that happened after December 2013, I know nothing about it, so I was surprised when Zimra invited me with regards to the unpaid duty and VAT permits amounting to more than $4 million for trade that happened this year.
“I released documentation to Zimra explaining the position that I sold the company last year and have nothing to do with it. They are yet to come up with a position on that.”
Mr Dawson expressed ignorance about the relations between Messrs Goredema, Hokonya and Karimazondo.
Sources said there had not been change of ownership of the company because the new owners were yet to pay the $500 000 purchase price.
“Some trucks with chickens belonging to the new owners of the company were stuck at Beitbridge Border Post for about 21 days, with Zimra officials insisting that they pay duty, while they claimed that the chickens were a donation to Zimbabwe Defence Industries,” said one of the sources.
“(Mr Gershom) Pasi was alerted of the problem and he phoned a senior official at Zimbabwe Defence Forces to inquire if the stock belonged to ZDF and the official expressed ignorance about the stock.
“This prompted Goredema to tell his aunt VP Mujuru about the bottleneck and she then phoned Pasi and instructed him to allow the stock to come in and the imported chickens were allowed in. But unbeknown to people was that Zimra still calculated duty and recently demanded that Dawson pays the unpaid duty.
“Dawson advised Zimra that he no longer had anything to do with Dawson Enterprises from January 2014, but it looks like Zimra is hesitant to charge the new owners because of the VP’s interests. So, Dawson is now the easy target”, said the source.
Another source said : “This was VP Mujuru’s project and that explains why Zimra allowed these chickens to come in without paying duty for several months. These people were selling their chickens at Koala Meats at $2.20 per kg which made it difficult for local farmers to compete with them.
“They could afford to sell at such low prices because they were not paying duty, yet when they brought them in they claimed the chickens were a donation. But after getting wind about what was going on following media reports of cases of alleged abuse of office by VP Mujuru, Zimra retroactively calculated and demanded the unpaid duty.”
Mr Hokonya declined to comment on the issue yesterday saying, “We are not in a position to make any comment at the moment”.
When pressed to explain the problems their trucks encountered at the border and VP Mujuru’s involvement, Mr Hokonya said: “I am not going to be talking to the press about that.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mr Pasi were fruitless.
VP Mujuru torched a storm at the pre-budget seminar for MPs in Victoria Falls early this month when it emerged that she had directed Secretary for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Mr Ringson Chitsiko, who worked under her when she was Minister of Water, to issue her family business with a permit to import chickens from Brazil against a Government ban on such imports.
This was after VP Mujuru had allegedly struck a deal to import chickens from Brazil when she travelled to that country on Government business in 2011.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa urged legislators to investigate the matter and establish who authorised the illegal import permit.
The permit was issued even though Minister Chinamasa had gazetted a statutory instrument banning the importation of chickens to protect local farmers.
On the sidelines of that seminar, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa accused VP Mujuru of conniving with Mr Chitsiko to circumvent the ban, adding that it was a bigger political motive which sought to collapse the poultry industry in Zimbabwe.
VP Mujuru has been in the eye of the storm after growing allegations of abuse of office to benefit herself, members of her family and business associates. She has also been implicated in a treasonous plot to oust President Mugabe from office following utterances by Minister of Presidential Affairs responsible for State Security Didymus Mutasa and deposed Zanu PF Spokesperson Rugare Gumbo that the President “would go the Kaabila way” if he blocks VP Mujuru from ascending to the presidency. Zanu PF’s Mt Darwin District and Mashonaland Province have since rejected VP Mujuru’s ill-fated bid to represent the district and province in the Central Committee to be confirmed at the party’s Congress next week.