BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
FORMER Tourism minister, Priscah Mupfumira and retired labour ministry permanent secretary, Ngoni Masoka were yesterday arrested on fresh charges of abuse of office and money laundering.
The two appeared before Harare magistrate Hosea Mujaya who released them on the same bail conditions they were given at the High court and were remanded to October 22.
It is the State’s case that sometime in 2013, MetBank defaulted in paying back US$25,3 million investment loan maturity to the National Social Security Authority that was secured with properties worth around US$32 million.
As a result of the default, NSSA allegedly classified MetBank as a high risk client that was not worth trading with and in December 2014, Mupfumira was appointed Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister.
On December 15, five days after her appointment, she held a meeting with MetBank officials Ozias Bvute, Enoch Kamushinda and Belmont Ndebele at the ministry offices where no minutes were recorded.
It is alleged that on December 16, 2014, Mupfumira and Masoka held another meeting with then NSSA general manager James Matiza and the MetBank officials at the ministry offices.
Mupfumira allegedly instructed NSSA to financially bail out MetBank to the tune of $15 million as it was facing liquidity challenges.
NSSA, however, declined the proposal since MetBank had previously defaulted in a US$25,3 million loan advance. Mupfumira then disregarded all that and went to give Matiza instructions to seriously consider MetBank’s loan request and process a loan of US$15 million to settle the bank’s US$5 million depositors credit and US$10 million for use in housing projects and bring feedback the following day.
It is alleged that no minutes of the meeting were recorded. NSSA resolved to decline the US$15 million loan request after considering MetBank’s risk status.
However, Mupfumira and Masoka forced NSSA to purchase MetBank properties worth US$4 908 050 that they had not intended to purchase and after purchase of the properties and NSSA had transferred the money into MetBank account Mupfumira then received $44 600 from MetBank through her company Beautyview Investments (Pvt) Ltd, where she is a director and her children.
When Mupfumira received the US$44 600, she was aware that the deposits were proceeds of crime and that they were meant to disguise the true nature, source and location and disposition or ownership with respect to the money.
All the money was used to offset a negative balance on her company account of US$39 777,14.
The State further alleges that sometime in July 2015, Mupfumira and Masoka unlawfully caused purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser VX-L 200 series from Croco Motors using US$90 000 corruptly obtained from NSSA on June 2, 2017.
She directed her ministry’s finance director Memory Mukondomi to write a letter to CMED misrepresenting that the vehicle bought using NSSA funds was a NSSA vehicle inferring that it would be taken back as it was appearing in NSSA audited financial statements.
As a result of the misrepresentation, CMED issued Mupfumira with a Jaguar and Masoka accepted the vehicle into the ministry and wilfully neglected to inform President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the appointing authority. Mupfumira effectively ended having three personal cars instead of two according to the condition of service.
Sometime in October 2017 after she left the ministry, she requested to purchase the three vehicles and was given permission to buy them knowing they were proceeds of crime.
It is further alleged that in 2016 she instructed Mukondomi to pay tickets for her aides Kutyamadzo Shumbayaonda, Sphiwe Dhliwayo, and Alexandria Bwerinofa using ministry funds.
The three were to attend her daughter’s wedding in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is alleged they booked hotel accommodation for the seven officials at Cape Town Hotel, and Mupfumira’s relatives booked at Lord Charles and Southern Sun hotels using National Drought Account funds.
Mupfumira and Masoka further incurred an unlawful R16 427 expenditure payment of taxi services using ministry funds.