Nyore Madzianike Senior Court Reporter
A State witness yesterday backtracked during cross-examination in the trial of former Cabinet Minister Prisca Mupfumira on charges that she improperly pressed for a quick deal without going through tender processes between NSSA and Drawcard Investments over a Gweru housing scheme.
The former finance and administration director in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mrs Memory Mukondomi, on Tuesday said in her evidence in chief that Mupfumira had pressed NSSA to sign the deal within 48 hours.
But yesterday, Mrs Mukondomi both denied that Mupfumira had pressed the NSSA board for instant approval and said its was then NSSA chairman Robin Vela who gave the 48-hour deadline.
Under cross-examination by Mupfumira’s lawyer, Mr Admire Rubaya, in the case where she is jointly charged with Barnabas Matongera on criminal abuse of office charges, Mrs Mukondomi said it was not the duty of Mupfumira to see that projects got approval and went through tender processes as she was not the ministry’s accounting officer.
Mrs Mukondomi said the NSSA board was seized with the mandate to see that the Gweru off-take low income housing project agreement signed between NSSA and Drawcard Investments was above board.
Responding to questions posed by Mr Rubaya, Mrs Mukondomi said that Mupfumira never instructed them not to follow due processes.
“No there was no such communication. She would say let’s expeditiously enter into the agreement (but) it was not her duty to see into that and she was not the accounting officer at that time,” she said.
Yesterday, Mrs Mukondomi migrated from her assertion made on Tuesday that Mupfumira pressed the NSSA board to have the agreement signed within 48hours.
She said in fact, it was the then board chairperson, Mr Robin Vela, who said it during a meeting.
Mrs Mukondomi also told the court that Mupfumira was not the one who introduced Drawcard to NSSA, but is was the bank which was to partner NSSA in the project.
She also distanced Mupfumira from playing a role in the payment of US$3,5 million towards the off-take project.
Mrs Mukondomi acknowledged that she was also seized with responsibility to see that the project was above board as she sat in the NSSA board as a link between the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and NSSA.
Mrs Mukondomi exonerated Matongera from participating in processes in the build-up to the signing of the agreement, saying he was not the accounting officer at the material time.
Then NSSA general manager Mrs Elizabeth Chitiga was the accounting officer and “everything was the preserve of the accounting officer”.
Asked by Matongera’s lawyer Mr Masinire whether the off-take agreement needed board approval and going to tender, Mrs Mukondomi replied: When there was a discussion as to not why take it to PRAZ (the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) for approval, the board chair said the housing units are purchased as NSSA business and it is where a business buys and sells.
He classified these housing units as trading stock which does not require board approval.
Mr Emerson Mungwariri, who testified as a State witness, told the court that there was no evidence that proved that Mupfumira instructed anyone at NSSA to speed up the signing of the agreement and that Matongera did not participate in the signing of the agreement.
Mr Charles Lovemore Nyika, NSSA deputy director for property investments, told the court that he was not privy to issues surrounding the NSSA-Drawcard Investment projects, as his level would not allow interaction with the Minister.
He only came to know of the issues when called to make a statement at Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
The trial was adjourned to Monday next week.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna presided while Mr Whisper Mabhaudi and Mr Loveit Masuku appeared for the State.