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Top ex-Government official jailed

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Former principal director of State Residences Douglas Tapfuma was yesterday jailed for an effective four years and had six vehicles forfeited to the State after he was convicted on three charges of criminal abuse of office.

Harare regional magistrate Ms Esthere Chivasa had initially jailed Tapfuma for two years on each count before suspending two years. She declared the forfeiture of six cars — a Toyota Hiace, Toyota Alteza, BMW 318i, Nissan Tiida and two Honda Fit vehicles — out of the eight cars he imported.

In passing sentence, the magistrate made it clear that corrupt practices required deterrent punishment.

During is tenure as principal director of State Residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Tapfuma imported the eight vehicles using bills of entry exclusively reserved for bringing into the country the President’s personal goods and for the Government.

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By doing this, he avoided paying duty.

Two out of the cars Tapfuma imported were donated to Kwekwe Hospital as ambulances.

One point that caused a slight stir was the assertion that although suspended, he had not been dismissed from Government service and had not faced a disciplinary hearing.

In mitigation, lawyer Brighton Pabwe said: “The accused is still employed in the capacity in which he was being charged and not yet dismissed from his employment.”

He called for a non-custodial sentence saying a wholly suspended prison term would suffice considering that he had spent almost 10 months in remand prison before his case was finalised.

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“The accused is still in employment and he lives with dependants who look upon him. He has already served his prison term considering that he was arrested on July 31, 2019.

“According to the Correctional Services Department, the 10-month period equates to a year. This period of 10 months’ incarceration should be taken into account,” he said.

Tapfuma told the court that he was now prepared to pay duty for the cars.

The State led by Ms Sheila Mupindu, in aggravation, told the court that Tapfuma’s acts were a serious breach of trust that also betrayed the good standing of the Office of the President.

Ms Mupindu had urged the court to jail Tapfuma for five effective years, saying his actions derailed the nation’s calls to fight corruption.

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“Corruption is difficult to detect and it is difficult to defeat. He was disrespectful of the Head of State’s call to fight corruption. He was motivated by greed since he had funds to pay the duty,” she said.

Prosecutor Mupindu also called for the cars to be forfeited to the State.

In sentencing him, the magistrate said Tapfuma did not show contrition during his trial and the sentence should send a message to people that corruption should not be taken as a way of life.

“It is very difficult to detect and eradicate corruption. The accused deserves a custodial sentence as I have already said in my judgment that his acts were well-calculated,” she said.

Ms Chivasa noted that ordering Tapfuma to restitute Zimra $11 996 for the duty he evaded was tantamount to double punishment therefore forfeiting the cars to the State was appropriate.

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