PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, senior government officials and top bureaucrats in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) were conspicuous by their absence at the burial of former executive chairman of the State Procurement Board (SPB) Charles Kuwaza last Friday, highlighting how relations had deteriorated.
By Owen Gagare/Bernard Mpofu
Kuwaza, a top career bureaucrat, worked in Treasury in the 1980s before being promoted to defence secretary and finance secretary in the 1990s. He worked at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. He also served as executive chairman of the SPB, which falls under the OPC, between 2001 and 2015.
Kuwaza died under suspicious circumstances on Tuesday last week after plunging nine floors from his Club Chambers offices in Harare.
Indications are that he could have been attacked in his office before being thrown out of the window by unknown assailants, given what appeared to be blood stains on his office chair and walls.
His office was also in disarray, suggesting there was a scuffle.
He was buried at Glen Forest cemetery on Friday. Senior government officials were, however, absent from the funeral, although former finance minister Herbert Murerwa visited the family home to offer his condolences.
Some junior officers from the SPB also attended.
Deputy Chief Secretary in the OPC Ray Ndhlukula told the Zimbabwe Independent the OPC was represented by members of the SPB at Kuwaza’s burial.
“What type of question is that and why would you want to know whether we attended the funeral or not? Anyway, the SPB members were there and since you know it falls under the OPC, it means we were present,” he said.
At the time of his death, Kuwaza was locked in a bitter fight with senior officials in the OPC and SPB.
The SPB had dragged him to court to face fraud allegations.
Kuwaza had gone to his offices with his wife who, however, remained in the car — with its engine running — as he only wanted to collect the documents to bolster his defence in a case where he was facing five counts of corruption involving over US$1 million and ZW$2,5 billion.
He was freed on bail on March 24 and was due to appear in court on May 18.
Kuwaza’s contract as SPB boss was terminated in December 2015, setting the stage for clashes between him and senior officers in the OPC and SPB.
Following instructions from Chief Secretary in the OPC Misheck Sibanda in a minute referenced AP/27/435 and dated November 19 2015, the SPB was directed not to pay employment benefits to Kuwaza until his exit package was determined.
The OPC directed that Kuwaza hand over some motor vehicles he was using: a Toyota Prado registration number AAV 0184, Mercedes-Benz E320 (AAB 994), two Mitsubishis (AAG 0086 and AAG 0087) and a Mazda 626 (AAC 5173).
Kuwaza, however, refused to surrender the vehicles before the finalisation of his exit package. He argued his benefits would be determined by President Robert Mugabe as per his contract.
The SPB had made a High Court application to force Kuwaza to release the vehicles, but he opposed the application. The matter was being heard under case number HC12573/16.
The SPB has also been trying to force Kuwaza out of an upmarket house situated at number 88 Quinnington Avenue in Borrowdale, but he had refused to move out before the finalisation of his exit package. In addition, Kuwaza, through his lawyers Gill, Godlonton & Gerrans, was threatening to take legal action against the SPB.