THE National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI)’s investigation report submitted to President Robert Mugabe on the Ziscosteel looting scandal con
firms Science and Technology minister Olivia Muchena had an air ticket bought for her by the company’s Botswana subsidiaries.
This came as Muchena this week contested NECI’s report on the issue through her lawyers by writing to the Zimbabwe Independent which disclosed the matter last week.
Muchena was named in the NECI report, together with Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Samuel Mumbengegwi and Small-to-Medium Enterprises Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni, among others, as having had allowances and air tickets paid for them by Zisco while on missions that had nothing to do with the company.
However, Muchena in an interview with the Independent and through her lawyers Gambe & Partners, says although she was invited by people that she did not name to go to Botswana at the material time, she declined.
“Our client remembers some talk during the relevant period about a possible trip to Botswana. She remembers declining on the basis that such a trip had nothing to do with her ministry,” Muchena’s lawyers say.
Asked who had invited her during an interview on Wednesday at her offices, she refused to provide the details. Further asked if she thought NECI was lying in its report, she said: “I have no idea about what you are asking.”
Muchena repeated what her lawyers had earlier said to the effect that she did not travel to Botswana — which neither the Independent nor the report claims — beyond the fact that a ticket was bought for her.
“She never travelled to the destination referred to in your article during the period referred to. In fact, her passport details of travel vindicates this,” the lawyers say. “A mere invoice for an air ticket is not proof of travel. The invoice must have a ticket coupon attached to it to prove travel. If invoice number 764 exists as per your article, our client’s position is that she never travelled. Verification with the travel agency or the airline will clear the issues.”
Muchena said she does not travel out of the country without cabinet authority and she had verified that she did not apply for one at the time.
But the NECI report has Koy Travel & Tours’ invoice for three air tickets with Muchena, Nyoni and Mudariki’s names on it and stamped “PAID”.
The reports says Muchena, Nyoni and Mudariki had air tickets bought for them by Zisco’s sister Botswana companies via Koy Tours & Travel on June 17 2004 for trips between Harare, Johannesburg and Gaborone. Pula 16 625 was paid for their tickets.
The report also states Muchena’s ticket was for the Harare-Johannesburg-Gaborone-Johannesburg-Harare trip and its invoice number was 764.
Nyoni and Mudariki’s tickets had the same details. Another ticket was bought for Mudariki on May 24 2003. Altogether P92 924,40 was paid for the air tickets, including those of Zisco directors who would choose to meet in Gaborone even if they were all from Zimbabwe.
“The company also bought air tickets for non-Zisco officials,” the report says. “These include Mrs J Mujuru, Mrs S Nyoni, Dr O Muchena who had nothing to do with Zisco in their official capacities then, to mention a few of the government ministers and Mr Mudariki.”
Annexure 22 of the report has a schedule showing air-ticket details bought and passengers’ names.