Prosper Dembedza Court Correspondent

Former Zinara finance director Simon Mudzingwa Taranhike has been jailed for an effective 15 months after being found guilty of criminal abuse of office.

Taranhike abused the Zinara fuel facility and authorised the issuance of 1 800 litres of petrol (Redan Puma) coupons to ZBC journalist Davison Vandira in April without following due procedures, prejudicing his employer of fuel then worth $6 354.

Harare regional magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya initially sentenced Taranhike to 30 months in prison before suspending six months on condition of good behaviour.

Another nine months were suspended on condition that Taranhike pays back the 1 800 litres of fuel to Zinara before December 31 this year.

In passing sentence, Mr Mujaya said he took into consideration that Taranhike was a first offender and a family man.

Mr Mujaya said it was true that Taranhike did not directly benefit from the commission of the offence.

He further stated that Taranhike lost his job as a result of the offence.

Mr Mujaya said the court could not turn a blind eye on corrupt activities and should pass an exemplary sentence.

In mitigation, Taranhike’s lawyer Ms Purity Chikangaise said her client was a first offender and a father of three.

She told the court that Taranhike was a qualified chartered accountant.

Ms Chikangaise told the court that Taranhike was a hypertension patient who takes medication three times a day.

“Because of this conviction, my client’s employment opportunities have been thrown down the drain,” she said.

Ms Chikangaise told the court that the conviction on its own had a negative impact on her client in his social life since he was a well-respected person.

She asked for leniency, saying a custodial sentence would be too harsh for a first offender.

“The court should consider a fine in this matter because indeed it is a fine-able offence, especially putting all the circumstances of the case in total,” she said.

Asked by Mr Mujaya whether it was appropriate to consider restitution as part of the sentence, Ms Chikangaise agreed saying her client was in a position to restitute the fuel coupons if need be.

In aggravation, prosecutor Ms Netsai Mushayabasa said corruption has become rampant in the country and the court should consider stern measures to send a message to would-be offenders.

Ms Mushayabasa said a fine or community service would trivialise the offence.