By Mary Taruvinga
FORMER Energy Minister, Samuel Undenge could not hide his relief after he was Monday acquitted in a case in which he was accused of favouring controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo with a $200 million tender for a solar plant project.
Harare magistrate, Barbara Chimboza ruled that the ex-minister did not commit any offence adding that evidence given in court exposed the state witnesses who did not do their job properly.
Undenge’s wife, Letwin, also leapt with joy before she started praying loudly in court praising God.
“The accused defence was credible even though he requested for cabinet minutes which were never availed. The key witness, Zimbabwe Power Company, Noah Gwariro kept on shifting the blame on the accused, but his allegations were not justified. This court is of the view that the state failed to prove its prima facie case,” she ruled.
Court also ruled that the ministry’s board was disorganised.
This concurred with Gwariro’s evidence. Gwariro said, “There was a number of people to be answerable after an internal audit was carried out. There was a serious conflict of interest in this case.
“The board made all sorts of allegations and took much efforts to wash their hands off this case despite the fact that we would report to them and the ministry.”
Undenge was acquitted at the close of the state case after he successfully applied for discharge through his lawyer, Alec Muchadehama.
He denied the allegations and accused Gwariro of the offence complaining that he is the one who should be in the dock.
“The chief eyewitness corruptly got himself in the witness stand yet he should be in the dock with the accused,” said Muchadehama during trial.
Prosecutors alleged Chivayo, through his company Intratrek Zimbabwe, pocketed an initial $5.6 million from ZPC for commencement works but failed to deliver.
The state also alleged only $48,000 of that amount was used at the site.
Undenge successfully argued that he was not even aware of how the company was awarded the contract.
But Gwariro said he was responsible.
“The accused later came back, told me to go ahead and pay Intratrek. I could not turn down his orders because I believed they were orders from the President (Robert Mugabe).”
Gwariro further told court the initial estimate for pre-commencement work was $7 million but Chivayo was paid $5 million.
Chivayo, who is being charged for money laundering, contravening the Exchange Control Act and fraud, then converted the money to personal use and did not carry out any meaningful work at the project site.
It is alleged that the businessman transferred the funds to his other businesses which had nothing to do with the project he was contracted to carry out.
Chibayo is currently on trial over the offence and his case was Monday postponed to December 12 after his lawyers indicated they had commitments elsewhere.