Ex-Zinara directors acquitted
Chief Court Reporter
FORMER Zinara chief executive Frank Chitukutuku and ex-technical director Moses Juma were yesterday acquitted of corruptly awarding a tender to a local company for the rehabilitation of roads in three rural district councils.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Taurai Manuwere acquitted the pair on all charges after the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt. The two had pleaded not guilty to allegations of awarding a tender to Fremus Enterprises for the rehabilitation of roads under Gutu Rural District Council, Zaka Rural District Council and Gwanda Rural District Council.
Fremus Enterprises is owned by Freddy and Masline Chimbari.
In his judgment delivered yesterday, Mr Manuwere noted that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt on all the three counts.
In respect of Mr Chitukutuku, the prosecution failed to prove a charge in respect of any competent verdict, in this case failure to disclose to his principals his financial interests in Fremus Enterprise.
“In respect of first accused (Chitukutuku) none of the witnesses could link him to the offences charged and even the investigating officer could not rule out that payments made to him by Fremus where emanating from a legitimate business transaction to do with the purchase by Fremus of the 40 percent shareholding in Champions Insurance,” said the magistrate.
He said Mr Chitukutuku produced a contract between Hotspike and Fremus on the point and a schedule showing repayments made factoring in interest.
His explanation for the payments, the court ruled, was reasonable and possibly true. A criminal defence only has to show that an alternative explanation of the facts could be true in the eyes of a reasonable person, not that it is necessarily true.
There was no evidence to link any of the accused to the offences preferred.
The court also found Mr Juma not guilty of any wrongdoing. He was once acquitted by a disciplinary tribunal on the same facts in 2017.
Mr Juma was linked to the offence by a telephone call allegedly made to Gutu Rural District Council, but the magistrate made a finding that the allegation had no substance.
“The two accused are accordingly found not guilty and are hereby acquitted,” said Mr Manuwere.
The two Zinara executives were allegedly accused of receiving more than US$140 000 from Fremus Enterprises as a kickback after awarding it the tender for the work in the three council areas.
Mr Chitukutuku, who was being represented by his lawyer Mr Jonas Dondo, in his defence, said he was not involved in the handpicking of any rural district councils to benefit from any special fund projects as alleged.
He said he was only aware of two programmes that Zinara was involved in namely the routine road maintenance programme and the periodic maintenance road programme.
Mr Chitukutuku denied imposing a contractor on any council as alleged, saying he had no powers and authority to do so.
He told the court that the money he received from Fremus Business Consultancy (Pvt) Ltd was payment towards the purchase of a 40 percent shareholding in Champions Insurance Company.
Mr Chitukutuku is a director of Champions Insurance.
He said he was able to demonstrate that in February 2010 through his company called Hotspike (Pvt) Ltd which was able to conclude a contract with Fremus Business Consultancy (Pvt) Ltd in terms of which Fremus purchased the 40 percent shareholding in Champions Insurance for US$100 000, which amount Fremus undertook to pay with interest over time.
Through his lawyer, Mr Mabasa Mukome, Mr Juma denied the allegations, saying between January and June 2011, he was not working at Zinara headquarters as alleged by the State.
He told the court that he was actually working in Bulawayo as a planning and monitoring engineer and was only appointed as technical director in March 2013.
He said funds allocation and roads approval were done by the Zinara board, while procurement, service providers, and the appointment of contractors were done by the road authorities, in this case the three rural district councils.