Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
The State is starting the extradition process on fugitive former Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi, who is believed to be holed up in South Africa, to bring him to trial on charges of theft of trust property. The allegations against Mzembi, who is on an outstanding warrant of arrest, arose during the time he was a Cabinet minister.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Hoseah Mujaya yesterday granted the State a longer remand period to May 7, following an application premised on the extradition process.
Prosecutor Mr Brian Vito sought for the longer remand period, saying it will allow the State to start and finish the extradition process.
In January, Mzembi’s lawyer, Mr Job Sikhala, claimed in court that his client was critically ill and unfit to stand trial.
The case was deferred several times on grounds that the former minister was too sick to stand trial. Contrary to claims by Mr Sikhala, Mzembi was recently caught on camera fit and jovial in a video believed to have been shot soon after the claims of illness.
This prompted the prosecution to successfully apply for a warrant of arrest. Mzembi is facing $1,6 million theft of trust property charges and another involving $184 336.
He is said to have connived with two others and seized vehicles which, according to the State, should have been surrendered after the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly held in Victoria Falls in 2013.
On the other charge, Mzembi is jointly charged with Margaret Sangarwe and Aaron Mushoriwa. When the alleged accomplices appeared in court yesterday, they successfully applied to have their reporting conditions scrapped.
Through their lawyers, Messrs Farai Mushoriwa and Tapiwa Mudambanuki, they argued that it was not their fault that the State was failing to put its house in order.
But they failed in their bid for refusal of further remand, despite arguing vigorously that they had been on remand for a long time without going to trial.
Mr Mujaya said he was giving the State one last chance to put its house in order.
The State alleges Mzembi obtained $2 million from Treasury to buy 40 LED PVA screens in 2010. The money was paid to suppliers, Shanghai Linso Digital Technology Company, and the screens were recorded in the ministry’s asset register upon delivery.
Mzembi allegedly abused his office criminally by intentionally disposing of 16 screens via donations and loaning or hiring them out to various institutions without Treasury’s approval.