CITIZENS’ Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator for Kuwadzana East Chalton Hwende has challenged the Speaker of Parliament to explain why under-fire Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda is still coming to work despite his involvement in a shady computer procurement tender.
Chokuda was arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) in April over a corruption scandal in which he bungled the infamous deal for the purchase of 173 laptops at an inflated cost of US$3 076 each from Blinart Investments, sparking a public outcry.
He was charged for criminal abuse of office and acting contrary to and inconsistent with his duties as a public officer by negotiating a price reduction of the computers with a company which had put forward its bid.
The state said Chokuda should have followed section 52 of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Praz) Act which stipulates the conduct of an accounting officer in a case where the price of the lowest evaluated responsive bidder exceeds the budget.
Chokuda and Parliament procurement director Stanley Bhebhe were granted ZW$100 000 bail and will appear in court on 31 May.
This week in Parliament, Hwende questioned why no action has been taken on Chokuda, saying this brings Parliament into disrepute.
Parliament’s integrity has already been tainted, with Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda stopping the National Assembly from investigating the findings of the Gold Mafia documentary by international news channel Al Jazeera.
The scandal exposed how well-knit syndicates — all linked to Mnangagwa, have been involved in money laundering and gold smuggling with government collusion.
“We have seen that the Clerk, Mr Chokuda, someone who is facing corruption charges after the laptop issue, is still part of your procession and is the one who is taking lead to advise you on an issue of such importance that involves corruption that has never been witnessed in this country.
“We want an explanation also on why Mr Chokuda is still coming to Parliament because he is bringing this institution of Parliament into serious disrepute. You cannot face serious charges of wanting to buy a laptop for US$9 000 and still come to Parliament and advise our Speaker. Those two matters, Madam Speaker, I am sure you are capable of ruling so that we can proceed.
“The other one (inquiry on Mudenda’s ruling), we will wait for the Speaker because we had come here today prepared for him, but we can wait for him but on those two, please can you help us with a ruling,” Hwende said.
In response, Gezi said she could not give a ruling with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) still investigating Chokuda.
“Honourable Hwende, I think on that one you are a bit out of order . . . I told you that I am not able to rule on the second issue. On Mr Chokuda’s issue, I am sure you know that he was taken by Zacc and Zacc is still doing some investigations. So, if it is before the courts, we cannot talk about it in this House. You know very well that we cannot talk about it in this House,” Gezi said.
Hwende said by coming to work, Chokuda was interfering with Zacc investigations by interacting with people involved in the case.
“His case has passed the Zacc stage. Mr Chokuda appeared in court and he was given bail. If he appeared in court and the case is still before the courts, we cannot discuss about it in this House please. Why is he coming to work interacting with the same worker that he is supposed to be investigated for? He is interfering with investigations and today he is helping you to stop Gold Mafia investigation.
“I have two issues that I have requested you to make a ruling on. As Parliament, we have a right not to be given advice by someone who is facing serious corruption charges and these charges happened here in Parliament. The same workers that were procuring the laptops are still here. Why is he coming to work facing corruption charges?” Hwende asked, with the Deputy Speaker signaling him to sit down.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa questioned why a report on Chokuda’s inquiry has not yet been tabled for debate in the National Assembly.
“On the Clerk’s issue, we did an enquiry. Why is the report not being tabled in Parliament on the recommendations? We must be very clear now that it is Zacc that determines whether he is given bail or not and Parliament does not control the processes of the court.
“We tabled a report. You must be asking where the report is. The chairman must table the report, we debate and there are recommendations. He sits in the Committee of Public Accounts. Why has the chairman not tabled the report then we can debate it? It has recommendations. Let us follow procedure and not just be emotional.
“We are waiting for the report to be tabled in Parliament so that everybody can contribute, but if the report is not there, let us not get excited. The Public Accounts Committee must table the report so that it is debated and there are recommendations we came up with. You are seasoned politicians, do not behave like kindergarten politicians,” Mliswa said.