POLICE have charged a headmaster with theft after 13 Ordinary Level examination question papers disappeared as he transported them to a school in Bubi, Matabeleland North, over the weekend.
The loss of the papers has forced the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) to reset the affected exams at a cost of US$850,000.
Panganayi Zimunhu, 31, of Entumbane, Bulawayo, was brought to the Western Commonage Magistrates’ Court in handcuffs on Thursday but was released before he could appear before a magistrate.
Prosecutor Dan Ndebele said there was not enough evidence to take the case forward and advised investigators to gather more facts.
Ndebele advised Zimunhu’s lawyer, Matshobana Ncube, that they would proceed by way of summons.
Investigators say on October 12 shortly after 3PM, Zimunhu went to the ZIMSEC Matabeleland North offices in Bulawayo where he collected the November 2012 O’ Level examination question papers for English Language (Paper 1 and 2), Mathematics non calculator version (Paper 1 and 2), Geography (Paper 1 and 2), Integrated Science (Paper 1, 2 and 3), Commerce (Paper 1 and 2) and Ndebele (Paper 1 and 2) on behalf of the school.
Zimunhu did not proceed to the school immediately but took the papers to his home. Police believe he deliberately caused the papers to disappear, possibly in a conspiracy with criminal elements.
But Zimunhu, in his statement to the police, denied any criminal conduct.
He explained: “Upon collection, I then hired a taxi to Entumbane where I stay. I went to Entumbane since there were no buses to go back to my school.
“The following day I went to Renkini Country Bus Terminus at around 8AM using public transport where I boarded a Siganda-bound commuter omnibus.
“It left the terminus at around 1PM. Before leaving, the conductor insisted that we remove the cardboard box containing the examination papers from the commuter omnibus to the trailer which we did and the cardboard box was placed in the trailer on top of a bed and it was also tied with a rope.”
Zimunhu says along the way they passed through Mzilikazi Service Station and that he took time to check on the cardboard box and that it was still there and intact.
He went on: “Going out of town, we used the route which passes through West Park Cemetery, Sauerstown, North End and Kingsdale before connecting to Nkayi Road just near Umguza River.
“We travelled for about 20KM along Nkayi Road and again I checked the cardboard box but I discovered that it was no longer there. I then ordered the driver to stop and we made a U-turn tracing back for about 5KM but we didn’t locate the cardboard box.
“I dropped off the commuter omnibus and again started tracing back all the way to Renkini Country Bus Terminus with negative results.”
ZIMSEC says it will send out new question papers for the affected subjects in time for the start of the exams on October 29 at 2,118 centres around the country.
Some 286,343 candidates are registered for the November O’ Level examinations this year up from 254,000 last year.