ZIMBABWE Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) commissioner in charge of investigations, Goodson Nguni, is allegedly a fugitive from justice in South Africa, raising questions about his suitability for his position at the anti-graft body.
Court papers from South Africa reveal that an arrest warrant for Nguni is still open, as he is wanted to answer charges of defrauding his former employer, the South African Post Office (Sapo), in the Eastern Cape region of over R500 000.
Attorneys in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa in Port Elizabeth yesterday confirmed to NewsDay that Nguni has since 1999 been on the wanted list for fraud involving R523 836.
Nguni reportedly left South Africa for Zambia and then Zimbabwe when the trial commenced.
South African authorities yesterday revealed they had sold some of his property in the neighbouring country to recover some of the “looted money”.
“The respondent (Nguni) in the matter failed to turn up for the past years when the case was supposed to go for trial,” an official at the NPA’s Port Elizabeth office said.
According to the NPA attorneys, the warrant of arrest issued against Nguni in 1999 had not been cancelled at law, as he had not yet presented himself before the courts.
“Since 1999, according to court papers, Nguni has been on the run in South Africa after he was being investigated by the South African Police Service (SAPS) on allegations that he had defrauded the Post Office, his employers then, of R523 836.
“As appears from papers already filed of record under case number 2529/99, the respondent (Nguni), while employed as regional manager Eastern Cape of the Sapo, defrauded his employer on various occasions.
“During approximately June 1999, the respondent left South Africa. A warrant for his arrest was issued and, although it remains valid, it cannot be executed because the respondent has not returned,” read part of an affidavit deposited by the then State attorney, Johannes Coetzee, who has since left the NPA to pursue a private career.
Court papers suggest that Nguni, who was married to the late Marion Nguni nee Sedze, then allegedly fled South Africa to Zimbabwe via Zambia, resulting in his property being attached by the State for sale to recover the alleged looted money.
“The assets attached by the curator bonis (State legal representative) were valued by him at R266 478, subsequent to the curator taking possession of the respondent (Nguni’s) assets, this honourable court (High Court South Eastern Cape Local Division) in case number 1128/00, granted leave to the applicants (National Director of Public Prosecution) to sell certain immovable property, which formed part of the assets attached,” read the court papers.
The investigating officer then, Paul Claassen, in his affidavit stated that Nguni was on the run since June 1999 and wife (now late) did not know the whereabouts of the now commissioner tasked to fight graft, a scourge that has crippled Zimbabwe’s economy.
“After the respondent left South Africa, I was in contact with his wife, Marion, who was still resident in Port Elizabeth,” the investigating officer said in an affidavit filed with the courts.
“I asked her on several occasions where I could find the respondent and she informed me on each occasion that she did not know, but he contacted her from time to time.”
According to court papers, Nguni allegedly corruptly engaged companies to paint various post offices in Eastern Cape, which did shoddy jobs and they would return to re-do the job, prejudicing the institution of thousands of rands. Claassen, according to the court papers, said before the warrant of arrest was issued against Nguni, the Zacc commissioner telephoned him claiming he was in Lusaka, and asked him to delay the process, as he wanted to travel back to that country, so he could attend to the allegations that were being raised.
On September 16, 1999, the day he had promised to be in South Africa, Nguni did not show up and this resulted in the warrant of arrest being issued.
“Accordingly, I arraigned for the issues of a warrant for the respondent’s arrest in respect of the fraud and corruption charges against him. The warrant of arrest was issued on September 22, 1999,” the papers stated.
An affidavit filed by Mvunyiswa Nzuzo Mfono, Anand Cooar Singh and Lindiwe Aurelia Dolly Ngozi – all then Nguni’s subordinates – said the hired painters did shoddy jobs and in some cases at stations that did not require renovations.
Another affidavit filed by Christian Johannes Stephanus Sharp, the then works inspector for Sapo in Port Elizabeth, said Nguni did not follow laid-down procedures to engage the contractors, who did the renovations at all post offices.
“The postmaster of a particular post office requiring repairs or maintenance will submit a request to the area manager for the work to be undertaken. My investigations revealed that Nguni was the person, who in almost all the cases mentioned, approved all the relevant documentation pertaining to the contractor, TC Nyoni,” the affidavit stated.
The papers indicate that Nguni, in a bid to clear his name, hired Gqobo and Company Attorneys at Law in South Africa to represent him, but later ditched them for TK Hove and Partners based in Harare.
Papers reveal that Nguni denied the allegations and accused the police officer, who was investigating the matter, of plotting his downfall, claiming he was not a fugitive from justice.
Tinofara Kudakwashe Hove, who took over the case, yesterday said he was unaware of the warrant of arrest issued against his client (Nguni).
But in communications between his office and South African prosecutors, Hove confirmed he was aware of the pending order to nab his client.
“Did you see the warrant yourself? Was it issued in the first place?” Hove asked.
“There have been a lot of issues with that case, I would need to see you later.”
But correspondence between the local law firm and Coetzee shows that the lawyers were aware of it.
“Our records indicate that the provisional order (to sell party of Nguni’s property by the curator) has not been confirmed and/or discharged, neither has the warrant of arrest been cancelled,” wrote TK Hove to the State representative on November 8, 2002.
Nguni’s property was sold in March 2008 after the South African NPA obtained an order in the High Court of South Africa (South Eastern Cape Local Division) authorising the curator, under case number case number 2529/99.
This was after the courts ruled that Nguni had benefited from his participation “in the offences of fraud and corruption”.
After his stint in South Africa, Nguni served in various capacities in Zanu PF, including the post of deputy information and publicity secretary for Harare province.
In spite of his pending charges in South Africa, Nguni is now at the forefront of fighting corruption in the country, as a Zacc commissioner.
According to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, a person with a criminal record cannot be a commissioner.
President Robert Mugabe has since reportedly instituted due diligence on Zacc commissioners.