HARARE – Former Zanu PF Highfield MP Psychology Maziwisa and broadcaster Oscar Pambuka were jailed for six years and five months on Thursday after they were convicted of defrauding the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).

Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube said the two men, who had been engaged by ZPC as public relations consultants through their company Fruitful Communications, had billed ZPC for $12,000 for work they never performed.

Maziwisa and Pambuka submitted invoices to ZPC, flagging several ZBC programmes and news reports on radio and TV in which they said they had plugged the company.

Said Ncube as he passed sentence: “What this court had to determine was whether there was a misrepresentation or not. Evidence from all witnesses from ZBC was that the accused were not supposed to be paid by ZPC. The company was not supposed to be billed because it is ZBC’s sole mandate to direct its reporters to do stories. This to me makes sense and it baffles that one would claim that he causes broadcasting of news articles on ZBC unless if there is a special arrangement.

“The accused have not shown the court that they had any agreement with ZBC. If anyone was to be paid, it would have been ZBC not their party.”

The magistrate said Pambuka had no powers over programmes like Media Watch, which he once presented, because they were produced by other journalists.

“The correct position is that he had no mandate to claim any money from ZPC. The accused used ZBC indirectly to fraudulently steal from ZPC,” the magistrate found.

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Pambuka and Maziwisa were sentenced to 54 months and 24 months each on count one and count two of fraud. On the first count, 12 months were suspended on conditions they restitute ZPC $12 000 by January 2019. A further 12 months were suspended on condition of good behaviour. Twenty-four months of the second count will run concurrently with the remaining 30 months of the first count, leaving them with an effective 30 months each to serve.

Former Energy Minister Samuel Undenge who advised ZPC to engage Fruitful Communications without going to tender was convicted and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for criminal abuse of office. He is out on bail after he appealed his conviction.

Michael Reza prosecuted.