THE late former State Procurement Board executive chairman Charles Kuwaza was scheduled to privately meet with President Robert Mugabe this past Wednesday, where he wanted to reveal the goings-on at the tender board, as well as his dispute with senior bureaucrats in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
By Owen Gagare/Bernard Mpofu
The information came as it emerged that the circumstances surrounding his death — which pointed to a strong possibility of a mafia-style cold-blooded murder as revealed by the Independent last week — have been of major concern in the top echelons of government. As a result, some senior officials have been advised not to visit their offices unaccompanied, particularly during weekends and holidays. Initially, the narrative was that Kuwaza had committed suicide by jumping from the ninth floor of his Club Chambers offices, but evidence found in his office suggests otherwise.
Sources close to the investigation told the Independent an inquest was likely to be commissioned to establish the circumstances under which he died. Government officials say Kuwaza had secured a Wednesday appointment with Mugabe despite efforts by some officials in the OPC to thwart his efforts. He used parallel structures to secure the appointment after officials reportedly denied him access to the president.
Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba yesterday refused to comment on the matter.
“How do I participate in a story in which the State is already incriminated, and incriminated by a newsroom, not by an investigating authority? Or to give a comment in respect of a meeting request already overtaken by death? I am a lot more sensible and sensitive. I don’t wish to be otherwise at all,” said Charamba.
Kuwaza died last Tuesday after visiting his office with his wife who, however, remained in the car — with its engine running — as he only wanted to collect documents to bolster his defence in a case where he was facing five counts of corruption involving over US$1 million and ZW2,5 billion. He was freed on bail on March 24 and was due to appear in court on May 18.
Investigations indicate he could have been attacked by unknown assailants who raided his office before pushing him out of the window either unconscious or already dead. Numerous eyewitnesses say Kuwaza — who was known to be scared of heights — did not scream during his fall.
Several other issues also raised suspicion of foul play, including the discovery of traces of blood on Kuwaza’s office chair and the walls.
There was also some oil-like substance which appeared to have been used to remove the blood stains. Those who went to the office shortly after he fell found evidence of things in disarray, suggesting a scuffle in the office.
Although he was in the office for close to 40 minutes, there was no suicide note.
A government forensic pathologist was summoned to take swabs in the office, including fingerprints, after it became apparent that the possibility of foul play was high.
A post-mortem was conducted at Parirenyatwa Hospital on Friday, but the results have not been made public.
Kuwaza’s lawyer, Shadreck Chisoko, said the family would not comment until it is given an update by the police. “We are waiting for the police to finalise their investigations before commenting. We have not been informed of any developments as yet,” he said.
Chisoko would not confirm if an inquest will be conducted although he said “normally such sudden death investigations result in an inquest”.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment as she was said to be in meetings. Her mobile phone was being answered by an aide, while a message sent on her mobile phone requesting an update on investigations was not responded to. Charamba’s deputy, Paul Nyathi, said he was in a meeting in Bulawayo.
Kuwaza was locked in a bitter legal wrangle with the OPC and the SPB over the ownership of cars and an upmarket house in Borrowdale where he was staying. He was sacked from the SPB, which falls under the OPC, in December 2015 before being denied an exit package.
Investigations by the Independent show that during his tenure as SPB boss, he could have stepped on the toes of senior government officials and military commanders over money-spinning deals which he blocked.