Exiled former tourism minister Walter Mzembi’s hands has been acquitted of corruption allegations by a High Court judge.
Mzembi (57), was charged together with the then tourism secretary Magret Mukahanana Sangarwe, Sussana Makome Kuhudzayi, Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa and Grey Hama.
They were accused of converting to their own use four Ford Ranger vehicles bought for use in the planning and during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation conference hosted by Zimbabwe in 2013.
Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi filed a High Court application seeking the forfeiture of the vehicles which he said should have been handed over to the tourism ministry at the end of the UNWTO conference.
However, Justice David Mangota of the Harare High Court, in a judgement made available this week, ruled that the Prosecutor General had no reasonable interest in the vehicles.
The judge said the vehicles were “never the property of government” and were in fact owned by a trust which had a mandate to remain in existence long after the UNWTO event passed. He said:
The Prosecutor General’s statement which is to the effect that the respondents violated government procedure when they failed to surrender the motor vehicles to the ministry of tourism and hospitality industry after the conference is difficult to comprehend, let alone accept…
He does not cite the circular, regulation, rule or law which he is insisting the respondents should have complied with.
He does not produce any evidence which supports the assertion that the respondents should have surrendered the motor vehicles to the government after the event.
… The respondents, it is evident, did not steal anyone’s property. Their use of the vehicles after the conference is nowhere near the crime of theft or theft of trust property.
They allowed the motor vehicles to remain registered in the name of the trust which owns them.
Their conduct is not consistent with that of a thief. The elements of theft do not exist at all…
Their hands remain as white as snow. They are clean. The application is, as a result, dismissed with costs.
Mzembi who now lives in South Africa was arrested after the late President Robert Mugabe was deposed in a military coup in November 2017.
He had been appointed foreign affairs minister shortly before the military staged the coup.