Zimbabwe's tourism minister spends night in jail, faces seven charges

26 July 2019 - 13:44 By LENIN NDEBELE
Zimbabwe's tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira denies guilt on allegations relating to financial irregularities.
Zimbabwe's tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira denies guilt on allegations relating to financial irregularities.
Image: Natanael Alfredo Nemanita Ginting

Buying luxury cars, using social security money for personal political campaigns and making a series of dubious investments are among the seven charges faced by Zimbabwe’s tourism minister, Prisca Mupfumira, 68.

On Thursday investigators from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZAAC) arrested her in connection with charges of alleged "criminal abuse of duty as a public officer". She spent the night at Avondale police station in Harare.

Her charge sheet, seen by TimesLIVE, states that money amounting to over US$90m was unaccounted for under her watch between 2013 and 2017 when she was public service minister.

The minister, in her "warned and cautioned" statement, pleaded not guilty to all the charges levelled against her.

The charges

- Getting a US$90K loan from NSSA to buy a car
- Using US$303K of NSSA money for her political campaign
- Using US$101K from NSSA’s CSR budget
- Influencing NSSA to buy four Metbank properties for US$4.9m

On the car issue, where she allegedly instructed the ministry to release US$90,000 to buy her a Toyota VX SUV when she also got a government Range Rover Sport, she said there was no wrongdoing. "I was entitled to the vehicles by virtue of my position as the minister, and there was nothing amiss with the second allocation. Suffice to say I am not responsible for allocation, I simply receive that which has been allocated to me," she said.

She also distanced herself from agreements the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) entered into with a struggling bank, Metropolitan Bank (Metbank), that saw it receive treasury bills worth US$62m, of which US$37m worth of the bills are unaccounted for, thereby prejudicing NSSA. "If NSSA suffered any prejudice it is within its rights to sue Metbank to mitigate its loss," she said.

The template is the same for the rest of the allegations, such as instructing NSSA to flout the tender process and allocate Drawcard Pvt Ltd a US$6.5m low-cost housing tender. She flatly said, "I am not the accounting officer for NSSA."

Independent member of parliament for Norton Temba Mliswa has called for the suspension of the minister from government pending finalisation of the case in court.