HARARE (Reuters) – A Zimbabwean court jailed two former executives of state-owned Air Zimbabwe to 10 years each on Friday, after finding them guilty of fraud in a rare slap on corruption against senior public officials.

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Most companies owned by the state in the southern African countries run losses every year, with management incompetence and corruption often cited as the major causes for the rot but few are ever brought to court.

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Former Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba and company secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi were found guilty of breaking the airline’s rules in 2009 by awarding a $10 million insurance contract to a local company without issuing a tender.

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The charges carry a maximum 15-year prison sentence, $3,000 fine or both. Both had denied the charges.

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“A tougher jail sentence is necessary to send a clear message that public officials should not engage in corruption or bribery activities, when carrying out their duties,” Magistrate Fadzai Mthombeni said in her ruling.

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Chikumba and Pfumbidzyi did not immediately say whether they would appeal the sentence.

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The southern African country has since 2012 been ranked 156 out of 175 on the Transparency International corruption index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption.

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