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By Andrew Kunambura
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) general manager David Chawota’s woes continue to mount after revelations that detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Fraud Squad have opened further investigations over allegations of abuse of office and corruption at the aviation industry’s regulator.
This comes after Chawota on Tuesday appeared in court over allegations of corruptly authorising payment of $56 042,76 for promotional material from his company without doing a comparative analysis.
He is out on a $700 bail.
Chawota is also a co-director and shareholder in the interested company, LL Promotions (Pvt) Ltd, which is in the business of designing and printing.
Sources at Caaz said police are also investigating him over a wide range of other issues, including allegations that he awarded several potentially lucrative concessions for coffee shops at the Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls International Airports to certain companies without going to tender.
Detectives are also pursuing the case in which Chawota is at the epicentre of a multi-million dollar scandal after he reportedly pressured the now dissolved Caaz board to authorise a €28 million (US$33,3 million) deal for the purchase and installation of an airspace management system at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to Spanish company Indra Sistemas without going to tender.
The deal, which was packaged as a “special tender”, is for the financing, supply and installation of an airspace management system to facilitate air traffic movement into and out of local airports. Zimbabwe is currently using an outmoded airspace management system, which exposes passengers to air traffic accidents.
The Zimbabwe Independent reported in December that Chawota played a pivotal role in ensuring Indra was irregularly awarded the tender.
In addition, Indra did not pass critical security vetting by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the Air Force of Zimbabwe. There are also concerns about a US$9 million cost escalation from the original tender of US$18 million, raising fears the tender could have been inflated for corrupt purposes.
Soldiers from the Air Force of Zimbabwe have since taken over the project.
National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi declined to comment, saying he would update the press if fresh charges arise from investigations.
“We cannot discuss those issues at the moment. As of now, the only charges we have against him are those which have been presented in court and, if anything comes up, we will update you,” he said.
Police have been on Chawota’s case since 2016 when Caaz officials anonymously alerted police to his alleged corrupt activities.
However, after police opened investigations, Chawota sought vengeance and fired three senior managers from Caaz who had co-operated with police.
At Chawota’s instigation, Caaz terminated the contracts of Harare airport manager Priscilla Mawire, corporate secretary Caroline Chigumira and finance director Joel Masuku on April 30, 2016.
Chawota was reinstated in September 2015 after being sent on forced leave in July of the same year to facilitate investigations into alleged poor corporate governance matters at the parastatal which is in charge of all airports in the country, aircraft parking, ground handling, fuelling, security and airside shuttle buses.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa says his administration has “zero tolerance” to graft, but corruption remains entrenched and rampant in government and society.