… escapes at court
…Investigating officer later arrested on allegations of corruption
By Richard Shumba
There was drama at the Gweru magistrate court on Thursday morning when Midlands State University (MSU) Assistant Bursar Norman Chiwanza was brought to court to answer allegations of defrauding the tertiary Institution of more than $10million rtgs, escaped from the police custody while awaiting initial remand.
According to sources, Chiwanza was arrested by police on Wednesday at 1740 hours after MSU auditors discovered that he was paying ghost workers, including his wife, salaries from the institution’s payroll.
He was taken to Gweru Central Police Station where he reportedly fell sick and was taken to a local hospital where he was detained while waiting to be taken to court for initial remand the following day.
On Thursday morning he was taken to court to appear on allegations of fraud and the prosecution was ready to oppose bail since it believed that Chiwanza was already interfering with state witnesses.
“He came to court accompanied by one plain cloth police officer and was not in handcuffs at all. Chiwanza was left unattended by the police officer who was sun basking and he saw an opportunity to escape while waiting to appear in court. It was only discovered after a senior police officer arrived to enquire on the case’s progress,” alleged the source.
According to court papers seen by this reporter, Chiwanza is being charged with fraud as defined in section 136 of the criminal law (codification and reform) act chapter 9:23.
Allegations that were supposed to be presented in court by the state were that, during the period extending from January to April 2022, Chiwanza whose duties included compiling a payroll schedule as well as disbursing salaries to the university employees paid 10 people including his wife who is not an employee of MSU, thereby causing an actual prejudice of ZWL$6 071202.00 and USD$30 110.00.
The matter only came to light after he went on leave and someone acting in his position received a complaint from an employee who had not received his salary that month.
Sources said the acting Assistant Bursar called Chiwanza requesting him to provide pay sheets so that he could check why the employee didn’t receive his salary.
He failed to provide the pay sheets to the Acting Bursar who later wrote an email to the bank requesting for the information to be provided and the anomalies’ were discovered, resulting in a full-scale investigation.
“I can tell you auditors are on the ground here at MSU, the fraud being unearthed goes beyond 2022, and more than ZWL$100million might have been stolen. How can an institution which claims to be the best in the country have a weak accounting system like that, it’s a shame really,” said a source at MSU.
The state was supposed to oppose bail sighting that there is overwhelming evidence in the matter and if remanded out of custody he was likely to flee and interfere with state witnesses who are his workmates.
The investigating officer who was with Chiwanza when he escaped from police custody was later arrested on allegations of corruption.
He will appear in court by way of summons.
ZRP National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, confirmed the escape of Chiwanza and called upon members of the public to assist the police in the capture of the MSU Assistant Bursar.
“Police are investigating the case of Chiwanza who escaped from police custody in Gweru and we want to find the circumstances which led to his escaping and whether there are people who assisted. We are casting our net wider to establish what really happened,” said Asst Com Nyathi.