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Zimbabwe Energy Minister Acquitted

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Zimbabwe's Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was acquitted Tuesday in Harare's High Court of charges he abused tender procedures. Mangoma’s arrest in March seriously threatened the relative stability brought to Zimbabwe by the country's inclusive government.

Harare High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu dismissed charges against Elton Mangoma, saying the state had failed to provide evidence against him.

He was accused of avoiding tender procedures when securing an emergency $5 million fuel order at a time when the country's fuel supplies were about to run out.

His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said although Mangoma has been acquitted of these charges, there is still another similar case against him which goes to court on July 18.

When he was released on bail for the fuel charges, he was immediately arrested a second time and charged with favoring one supplier over another in the purchase of electrical equipment for the state power authority.

Mangoma’s arrests shocked many Zimbabweans, as he was the first Cabinet minister in the inclusive government to be arrested since it was sworn into office in February 2009.

Mangoma is deputy treasurer of the MDC, whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai is prime minister.

Mangoma, a well-respected accountant, is also one of Tsvangirai’s negotiators at multi-party talks aimed at fully implementing the 2008 political agreement which brought the inclusive government to power.

Scores of MDC legislators, senators, party officials, and supporters have been arrested over the past two and a half years, though few of those arrested end up on charges in court.

Court records show that the handful found guilty as charged have succeeded on appeal of having the charges dismissed.

Human rights and legal analysts say that Attorney General Johannes Tomana, a loyal member of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, is orchestrating a campaign to harass the MDC using police and state prosecutors.

Tomana has denied the accusations in interviews in Zimbabwe’s domestic press.

ZANU-PF and MDC formed the unity government following the disputed and violent 2008 elections. Relations between the parties have been tense, and many ZANU-PF members have called for new elections as early as later this year. The MDC says no elections can take place until reforms are in place, including a new constitution.

Article by Peta Thornycroft, VOA News