ZESA Holdings Group financial controller, Mr Tafireyi Chikwenhere, yesterday told the court that three top executives at the power utility allowed a local law firm to perform debt collection services on its behalf for six months without a contract, leading to a US$3 million prejudice.
Mr Chikwenhere said this while testifying in a matter where former ZESA Holdings chief executive Joshua Chifamba, company secretary Saidi Sangula and corporate legal manager Garikai Murambiwa Churu are alleged to have hired Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners to perform debt collection without board approval.
Chifamba, Sangula and Churu are denying the charges.
Mr Chikwenhere told the court that Churu, who was an immediate subordinate of Sangula, signed a contract between ZETDC (Pvt) Limited and Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners for debt collection services without a board resolution of either Zesa Holdings or ZETDC.
He also told the court that Chifamba, Sangula and Churu, who were coordinating the debt collection activities, had already engaged Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners between January 2016 to June 6, 2016 without a contract.
Mr Chikwenhere said the trio knew there was conflict of interest as lawyer Mr Simplicious Chihambakwe, a ZESA board member, was also a senior partner at Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners.
Chifamba, through lawyer Mr Admire Rubaya, told the court that ZESA Holdings was not a public entity, rendering him not a public officer.
“He asserts that as the group chief executive officer of Zesa Holdings (Pvt) Limited he was tasked to carry out a number of duties in relation to his position,” said Chifamba.
“It is not clear how any or all of those duties are alleged to have been abused in contemplation of the law under which he has been charged.
“The first accused person further asserts that the purported charge is misconceived and puts him at a loss as to how to defend himself given that the charge does not disclose an offence.”
Mr Rubaya said Chifamba will challenge the State to prove that he is a public officer by operation of law.
“He asserts that he is being charged by virtue of being the group chief executive of Zesa Holdings, a company which was incorporated in terms of the repealed Companies Act (Chapter 24:03).
“The accused person therefore contends that he is not employed by the successor company to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority which existed at law through the repealed Electricity Act (Chapter 13:05).
“The State is challenged to prove that the company, Zesa Holdings, was formed within the peremptory six months’ period after the fixed date in terms of section 68(1) of Electricity Act (Chapter 13:09).
“In the circumstances, it is legally incompetent for the accused to be prosecuted as a public officer when he is not a public officer in terms of the Zimbabwean criminal law as codified. These charges are thus a nullity,” he said.
Chifamba also told the court that he did not engage Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners Legal firm in his personal capacity or with co-accused as the State alleges.
Sangula, through Advocate Sylvester Hashiti, denied the charges and was quick to apply to be excepted to the charges.
In his application for exception, Sangula told the court that his case was similar to that of Simplicious Chihambakwe, who is facing similar allegations before the same court.
He said Chihambakwe has since made an application for exception to the charges saying the outcome of his matter had a bearing on his case.