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Zimind piles pressure on govt

DESMOND CHINGARANDE
THE Zimbabwe Independent and Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) are piling pressure on the government to obey an order issued by the High Court to furnish the publication with reasons for their refusal to provide information on the procurement of buses for public transporter, Zupco.

Lawyers representing the applicants (Zimind Publishers and TIZ), Atherstone and Cook Legal Practitioners this week said the seven days had lapsed without the ministers of Local Government and Public Works (July Moyo) and Finance and Economic Development (Mthuli Ncube),  who are cited as respondents, sending written responses as was ordered by High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire a fortnight ago.

Local Government and Public Works (July Moyo)

“We refer to the above matter and the judgment delivered by the Honourable Justice Mafusire on July 13, this year under Judgment No. HH 464/22,” read the letter in part dated July 27.

“As you will note from the operative part of the order, in particular, paragraphs 2 and 3 which relate to your clients, the ministries of Local Government and Public Works, as well as Finance and Economic Development, they were ordered to, supply our client, through our office, within seven days of the date of the order, with written reasons for their refusal to provide the information sought through the letters dated 3 and 9 September 2020, and 2 March 2021 pertaining to the procurement of the 64-sitter buses consigned to Zupco and to pay our client’s costs of suit, jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved.

“Pursuant to the above order of the Court, we hereby formally request your compliance with same, in particular, paragraph 2 of the order without further delay.

“Failing which, our client shall approach the Court for appropriate relief without further notice.”

The lawyers further said they shall advise in due course of the costs the client suffered because of their actions.

The High Court ordered the ministry to provide the Independent with information pertaining to how the buses were purchased.

The ministries are yet to respond to the latest letter written by lawyers representing Zimind and TIZ.

The Independent approached the courts to compel the ministries to answer questions pertaining to the Zupco buses transactions after government ministries ducked questions.

In his judgement, Justice Mafusire ruled that the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and that of Finance and Economic Development’s long technical objections were short of facts and the notion that the applicants had been supplied with all the information was wrong.

“The factual position is clearly one not to detain the court. The respondents have not produced anything to support the claim that they responded to the applicant’s request, even via the press, notwithstanding that this would not be in compliance with the legislation,” the High Court judge said.

Mafusire ruled that the ministries did not comply with the law as administrative authorities.

They also did not comply with the duty imposed upon them where a request for information, such as was made by the applicant is concerned, according to the judge. He said by not supplying the information, the ministries should give their written reasons.

“There can be nothing standing in the way of the very limited relief sought by the applicants save the question of costs which are sought on an attorney and client scale. Nothing has been shown to warrant such a penal order of costs. In the circumstance, the application is granted in terms of the draft order as amended,” Mafusire ruled.

“Within seven days of the date of this order, the first and second respondents shall supply the first applicant, through its legal practitioners Atherstone and Cook, with the written reasons for their refusal to provide the information sought by the applicants, Zimind Publishers and Transparency International Zimbabwe, through letters to the respondents dated 3 September 2020, 9 September 2020 and 2 March 2021 pertaining to the procurement of the 64-seater buses consigned to the Zupco.”

In March 2020, the Independent, following a three-month investigation had reported about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the acquisition of buses for the third respondent (Zupco).

The story linked the transaction to a company known as Landela Investments (Pvt) Ltd. These articles reported that the government had initially signed a hire purchase agreement with Landela Investments but had subsequently decided to pay Landela Investments ZW$863,2 million for 162 buses.

Landela Investments thereafter sold each bus to the government for US$212 962 yet the company had purchased the buses from China for US$58 900.

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