Prosper Dembedza, Harare Bureau
The trial of former principal director of State Residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet Douglas Tapfuma, who is facing three counts of criminal abuse of office after he allegedly facilitating the importation of several vehicles duty-free, began yesterday with the accused denying all the charges.
He also pleaded not guilty to three counts of alternative fraud charges.
Tapfuma through his lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange tendered a copy of his defence outline to Harare magistrate Mrs Esthere Chivasa.
In the outline, which was read in court by Mr Samukange, Tapfuma said he followed the department’s policy and never made false representation to his supervisors the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and his deputy Dr Ray Ndhlukula.
Tapfuma claimed that Zimra was not prejudiced as duty would be paid on registration of the vehicles.
“He found this policy in place when he joined the department and he will challenge the State to dispute this assertion. He will further state that the department used this policy in clearing the other vehicles some of which are not even owned by the President’s Department or the Government,” read Tapfuma’s defence outline.
Mr Samukange further told the court that his client is not facing any disciplinary hearing neither has he been dismissed because he has done nothing wrong.
He further stated that there are some people who just want his client to be dismissed from the department because they feel that he is becoming too powerful.
Allegations against Tapfuma arose when he imported two personal minibuses from South Africa under the guise that they were for the Government on April 10, 2018.
On April 17, 2018 he allegedly assigned Bonani Ganyane, an officer working in the transport section of the Department of State Residences to proceed to Beitbridge and facilitate clearance of the two vehicles on behalf of the department using report order forms as if they were Government vehicles.
It is the State case that clearance of goods by report order form is a clearance procedure that is normally used by Government departments to apply for deferred clearance of goods from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
Ganyane allegedly proceeded to Beitbridge and provisionally cleared the vehicles using report order forms.
After clearing the alleged vehicles, Ganyane advised Tapfuma, who instructed him to hand the vehicles over to Vongaishe Mupereri, who at that time was National Assembly Member for Mbizo constituency.
The court heard that on April 20, 2018, Tapfuma made an application to the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet requesting for duty-free certificates in the name of the President’s Department, which were issued.
Tapfuma allegedly applied for duty exemption for the vehicles at Zimra, which was granted. He then registered the vehicles at the Central Vehicle Registry under the name of the President’s Department and started using them in his personal capacity.
The alleged vehicles were liable to pay duty amounting to US$3 180.
The court heard that on the second and third counts, Tapfuma allegedly imported an additional five personal vehicles between June and August 2018 from South Africa.
In different case, the trial of Chitungwiza Municipality director of works David Duma and his alleged accomplice, director of housing Hazel Sithole, on charges of criminal abuse of duty was postponed to January 27.
The charges against the pair emanate from the allocation of a commercial stand worth over $30 000 to Metalhill Investments, allegedly without following due process.