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Mugabe wades into Chombo probe as new tape emerges

Matonga enters 'not guilty' plea as graft trial opens

Chombo graft probe cop transferred

Ministers locked in fight over council polls candidates

Nherera gets 3 years with hard labour

Zupco boss Nherera convicted

Matonga, Nherera probe files vanish

Matonga graft trial collapses

By Lebo Nkatazo

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has ordered the appointment of a senior police officer to lead the corruption probe against Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, police sources said Thursday.

Mugabe's direct intervention came as a newspaper printed what it said was a transcript of a taped phone conversation between Chombo and businessman, Jahesh Shah, in which he allegedly solicits for a bribe in exchange for a tender to supply buses.

Shah's evidence has already led to the incarceration of Charles Nherera, the former boss of the state-owned bus firm, Zupco. Nherera was convicted for soliciting bribes, and is now jointly charged with the Deputy Minister for Information and former Zupco CEO, Bright Matonga, on fresh allegations.

Police sources said Thursday that Mugabe met Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and directed that a senior officer should lead the Chombo investigation after the mysterious transfer of Superintendent Phillip Ncube to Manicaland in what appeared to be an attempt to scuttle the probe.

Police sources told New that Ncube had been replaced by Chief Superintendent Allison Nyamupaguma, who has headed various Criminal Investigations Departments, including the Serious Fraud Squad.

Nyamupaguma, a war veteran, has many years in the police force and in the late 1990's, he was the Member in Charge at Mabvuku Police Station. At that time, he was an inspector.

A source said: "The President held a meeting with Chihuri and expressed
concern over Ncube's transfer. It was his order that a police officer with a
higher rank be appointed to replace Ncube."

A week after a taped phone conversation between Matonga and Shah turned up at the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, another weekly paper, The Financial Gazette, on Thursday released a new tape, this time a conversation between Shah and Chombo.

The paper said the tape "implicated" Chombo, adding that "police are looking into the possibility of prosecuting the senior politician."

Calling the taped conversation "sensational evidence", it said Chombo is overheard in the tape asking for a US$68 000 bribe from Shah, who is the state's key witness in the trial of Matonga and Nherera.

Shah has been granted immunity from prosecution by the Attorney General's office.

The Financial Gazette did not say how it got the tape. The paper said Chombo asked for a bribe of US$1 000 for every bus supplied to Zupco. The bus company was to procure 68 buses -- 49 conventional coaches and 19 minibuses -- from Shah.

It is not clear, however, if Chombo received the money and how much it was but Zupco went on to float a special tender which resulted in Shah's Gift Investments supplying 69 buses — 24 minibuses and 45 conventional buses.

Nherera, the former chairman of Zupco, was trapped and shopped by Shah to the police and is now serving a three-year jail term.

Chombo was a state witness during the trial but his credibility was put into question by the trial magistrate after it emerged that he had received financial donations for his political campaign from Shah.

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