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Chawatama victimised for exposing corruption: Lawyers

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LAWYERS representing the City of Harare’s director of works, Zvenyika Chawatama, have made a veiled claim that their client is  being victimised for exposing corruption at the local authority.

CHRIS MAHOVE
Chawatama, accused by the police allege of being on the run, is a key witness in a case in which town clerk Hosiah Chisango is alleged to have illegally sold residential stands in Kuwadzana suburb.

The council boss is now accused of appointing himself acting town clerk, a charge his lawyers also dismissed.

He was last week reported to have evaded police who wanted to arrest him in a high-speed car chase in Harare.

However, in a letter dated 18 February 2021 and addressed to acting mayor Stewart Mutizwa and copied to the ministry of Local Government and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Zinyengerere
Rupapa Legal Practitioners, representing Chawatama, said their client had not committed a crime.

“He has not been contacted by any member of the police. His telephone numbers are both official records with your office and no one has attempted to communicate with him. He remains of fixed aboard and his residence is not a secret from his employer,” they said.

The lawyers said the two people alleged to be members of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit who visited his offices on 1 February have not attempted to contact him although they spoke with his personal assistant and assured her that their client was not wanted by the police.

The two, the lawyers alleged, turned out to be council police officers; one of them identified only as Shiripinda allegedly visited the personal assistant’s house in Borrowdale suburb, which they ransacked, ostensibly in search of Chawatama.

“Our client is a key state witness in the pending criminal cases facing substantive Town Clerk, Mr (Hosiah) Chisango wherein he faces a raft of charges bordering on corruption and criminal abuse of office. Our client’s statement was recorded at Morris Depot on the 5th of September 2020.

“Your good office, for good measure, has not vitiated any of our client’s actions for which he executed in the said capacity {Acting Town Clerk},” the lawyers wrote.

They said Chawatama had not appointed himself acting town clerk, but was appointed by the acting mayor and was executing his duties at the direction of the of the acting mayor, including attending meetings and making commitments and undertakings which benefitted the City of Harare.

“Your acting position has been confirmed and ratified by central government through the office of the responsible minister in terms of the applicable law should a quorum not have been or impossible of being constituted…During the period before your receipt of your appointment letter, you worked with our client in his acting capacity. In your capacity as the de facto acting mayor, you appointed him following Dr (Prosoer) Chonzi’s sabbatical,” they said.

The law firm said the undertakings by Chawatama were now being pursued by the incumbent and council in their client’s absence and were part of council’s work plan, adding that council continued to reap the fruits of his industry and engagements with external partners and the public in the main.

They said on several occasions, Chawatama had inquired from Mutizwa if it was proper for him to execute the town clerk’s duties, and the acting mayor would indeed, through written communications, direct him to serve council.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, however, insisted that Chawatama is on their wanted list.

 “He has not yet been found, investigations are ongoing and once he has been arrested we will let you know,” he told a local newspaper last week.

Mutizwa did not respond to questions sent to him via WhatsApp.

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