MDC Alliance Councillor Arrested Over Tender Scam

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

KARIBA MDC Alliance councillor, Tendai Mapondera has been dragged to court for alleged corruption after awarding contracts to a company in which she is a director.

The company would then supply goods to the resort town’s municipality.

Mapondera (41) is Ward 5 councillor in Mahombekombe suburb.

On Wednesday this week, she was arraigned before the Chinhoyi provincial magistrate Ruth Moyo facing abuse of office charges following her arrest by investigators from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZAAC) Monday.

The matter had to be referred to Chinhoyi Magistrate’s Court as the Kariba resident magistrate was reportedly off duty.

Moyo granted Mapondera $50 000 bail, coupled with reporting conditions. She is expected back in court on 13 May for routine remand.

However, this followed strenuous attempts by state counsel Kesia Teveraishe to deny Mapondera bail on suspicion she could interfere with witnesses and investigations.

The state also argued the accused had several similar matters under investigations.

ZAAC investigations officer Maxwell Nyamapfeni said as a councillor, the accused person was powerful and might intimidate and victimise witnesses whose statements are yet to be recorded and jeorpadise investigations.

The state also alleged Mapondera was likely to abscond as she resides near the porous border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which needs a mere gate pass to cross.

However, defence lawyer Clara Phiri quashed the assertions arguing the reasons proffered by the state in opposing bail were weak.

The state case against Mapondera is that as chairperson of the council Environmental Management and Works Committee, she corruptly concealed from her principal a personal interest in a transaction as defined in Section 173 (3)(a)(ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The court heard that the Environmental Management and Works Committee had a mandate to receive management reports from the engineering department and deliberate on issues contained in the reports before making recommendations to full council for adoption or resolution.

It was further heard that Heirpaw Investments had its directors listed as Mapondera and Gift Chitehwe.

During period extending from February 2020 to March this year, Heirpaw Investments got contracts to supply steel and roofing sheets for the construction of Kariba People’s Market sheds.

The court heard on 25 February 2020, the engineering department represented by director Ndumiso Nyaningwe presented a report to Mapondera’s committee where he reported on the award of a contract to Heirpaw Investments for supply and delivery of building materials for the vendor’s market in Nyamhunga township.

Mapondera, as director of Heirpaw Investments, chaired the meeting and failed or neglected to declare her interest in the company.

On 25 June last year, assistant engineering director Alex Machaya attended a meeting of the same committee chaired by Mapondera where he reported on progress at the vendors’ market under construction.

During the meeting, Machaya highlighted that 75% of the steel was supplied by Heirpaw Investments in the fourth month of a contract valid for three months.

The supply of the steel was scheduled within 14 days from date of signing the contract.

Mapondera, again, failed or neglected to declare her interest in Heirpaw Investments, neither did she recuse herself to allow for remedial action to be recommended to full council.

The state alleges the councillor’s continued non-disclosure and non-recusal allowed her to protect her company to the detriment of the municipality whose project was stalled.

It was averred in court, on 9 September 2020, Mapondera chaired another meeting where she also concealed her links with the contractor.

As a result of Mapondera’s actions, Heirpaw Investments’ contract with council was not terminated when it failed to supply the required building materials according to the terms of the contract.