Senior Court Reporter
SUSPENDED NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje yesterday denied allegations of criminal abuse of office levelled against him after then board member Paradzai Mutandwa Chakona allocated him a house as chairman of the human resources committee without approval of the full board.
He said the allegations were part of the new board’s “bullying tactics” and that he and Chakona had acted according to their mandates and followed the practice at NetOne of allocating an official residence to the CEO.
NetOne states that such a benefit can be recommended by the human resources committee but must be approved by the full board before it is given.
Chakona, who is jointly charged with Muchenje, also denied the charges saying what he did was above board.
The two, represented by Advocate Taona Wayne Nyamakura and Mr Innocent Chingarande, told the court that NetOne had a policy of accommodating its chief executive in company houses.
They argued that according to the law, NetOne was not a public entity, but a private company although with the State as sole shareholder, and so they were not public officers.
It is alleged that the two connived to allocate Muchenje a housing benefit without NetOne board approval leading to the company losing $363 875 through underpayment of rent.
“They will state that both of them acted within the terms of their mandates and will deny the allegations of criminality,” said their legal counsel.
“The background shows the belligerence, bullying tactics and vengeance on the part of the current board of NetOne, ably assisted by a constitutional body that is supposed to stand against such conduct.
“The accused will deny that they are public officers as defined in the Criminal Law and Codification Act and will put the State to proof,”
“Only if need arises, the accused will state that contrary to State’s contrived allegations, NetOne has a policy of accommodating the chief executive at a company property as a CEO entertains both local and international guests at his residence.”
The two also told the court that the NetOne board of directors delegated authority to Chakona to execute a suitable agreement in respect of the said property, in his official capacity as the chairperson of the human resource committee.
They said Chakona acted within his mandate. Muchenje claimed that he never tampered with the housing benefit as he was only employed by NetOne while it was already in existence.
He said he was extended a benefit by his employed and duly accepted it. Muchenje and Chakona also queried the evaluation of the amount of prejudice that NetOne allegedly suffered when he was staying in the Borrowdale house, saying it was not binding at all.
“They will deny that the valuation by Pam Golding is not binding as alleged by the State.
“They will further State that there is no law or regulation giving valuation by Pam Golding the force of law and will put State to proof,” they said in their defence.
State witness, Ms Susan Muchaneta Mutangadura, who is the acting NetOne board chairperson, said there was a requirement that the two had to get authority from the board to have the benefit approved.
“The process starts with a proposal by management and this would go to the human resources committee because it is a benefit,” she said.
“If the committee was persuaded and justification for proposal was given, the committee would refer to full board.”
She said the process was not done. Ms Mutangadura will continue with her testimony on December 11 this year when the trial continues.
Harare provincial magistrate Mrs Vongai Guwuriro presided while Mr George Manokore appeared for the State.