BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
FORMER Tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira who is facing charges of criminal abuse of office and money laundering, is set to stand trial on November 4.
Mupfumira together with former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare Ngoni Masoka appeared before Harare magistrate Hosea Mujaya who deferred the trial to November 4 following arguments between the State and their lawyer.
Mupfumira’s lawyer Charles Chinyama advised the court that the State was not ready to set a trial date for the two accused persons, but the State argued that Chinyama was afraid to have the trial commence on October 30.
The State argued that it would make an application to proceed with the trial on October 30, but both parties later agreed on the November 4 date.
It is alleged that Mupfumira directed the Ministry of Public Service to write a letter to CMED misrepresenting that there was a certain motor vehicle bought using NSSA funds, hence inferring that it will be taken back to the pension fund as it was appearing in the audit financial statement.
As a result of the misrepresentation, CMED issued Mupfumira with a Jaguar and Masoka accepted the vehicle into the ministry. Mupfumira effectively ended up having three personal vehicles instead of two according to her conditions of service.
The court heard that sometime in 2016, Mupfumira instructed one Mukondomi to pay tickets for her aides Kutyamadzo Shumbayaonda, Sphiwe Dhliwayo, and Alexandria Bwerinofa using ministry funds, to attend her daughter’s wedding in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is alleged that they booked hotel accommodation for seven officials at Cape Town Hotel, and Mupfumira’s relatives booked at Lord Charles and Southern Sun hotels using National Drought Accounts funds.
In another count, it is alleged that Mupfumira instructed NSSA to financially bail out MetBank to the tune of US$15 million as it was facing liquidity challenges.
The court heard that NSSA reportedly declined since the bank had previously defaulted over a US$25,3 million loan advanced to it.
Mupfumira allegedly gave NSSA officials instructions to seriously consider the bank’s loan request and process a loan of US$15 million to settle the bank’s US$5 million depositor’s credit and US$10 million for use in housing projects and bring feedback the following day.
NSSA resolved to decline the US$15 million loan request after considering the bank’s risk status, but Mupfumira and Masoka forced the authority to buy the bank’s properties worth US$4 908 050.
It is the State’s case that after buying the properties and after NSSA had transferred money into the bank’s account, Mupfumira received US$44 600 from the bank through her company, Beautyview Investments Pvt Ltd, where she is a director together with her children.
It is alleged that when Mupfumira received the US$44 600, she was aware that the deposits were proceeds of a 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 US$39 777,14 was used to offset a negative balance on her company’s bank account.