Mudede "directly linked" to Chinhoyi diesel-from-rock rigging – Court

In convicting infamous "diesel n’anga" Rotina Mavhunga, alias Nomatter Tagarira, in absentia on two counts of defrauding the State of about Z$500 billion between March and June 2007 and misrepresenting to a public official that diesel was oozing out of a rock at Maningwa Hills in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West provincial magistrate Mr Ignatius Mugova last week said Mr Mudede had "an interest" in the matter.

However, he said the court could not establish if Mr Mudede’s involvement was for personal reasons or for the benefit of the nation.

Mavhunga claimed in court that Mr Mudede had supplied her with 125 litres of diesel which she poured through a pipe to deceive public officials that the liquid was coming out of a rock.

"From evidence from Mavhunga it is abundantly clear that Tobaiwa Mudede had an interest in the matter, whether for the benefit of the nation or himself is unknown to the court," Mr Mugova said.

The RG’s action, he said, was "disturbing" as he left Mavhunga in hiding and fed her when the police were hunting for her.

Mavhunga said she also got 100 litres of diesel from one Uswahungani and bought a further 500 litres that she also poured into the pipe on top of the hill.

Mr Mugova convicted Mavhunga’s co-accused Lyton Munodawafa and Martin Mazvazvido on the fraud charge, but exonerated them on the charge of misrepresenting to the then Mashonaland West Governor and Resident Minister Nelson Samkange on the grounds that the State failed to provide evidence linking them to the offence.

Mavhunga has not appeared in court despite several summons, prompting the court to proceed with her trial and pass judgment in her absence, while police enforce a warrant of arrest.

Mavhunga and her two accomplices now await sentencing, which was supposed to have been handed down last Wednesday but was deferred to tomorrow when police are expected to have apprehended her.

It is believed that she is holed up in Guruve.

Her co-accused were immediately put behind bars but have temporarily regained their freedom after the magistrate said there were some things he wanted to review before passing sentence.

The three denied the charge when the matter first came before Mr Mugova.

In delivering his judgment, Mr Mugova said: "The State failed to prove that all accused persons supplied false information to a public official. It only managed to do so in respect of accused one (Mavhunga).

"Consequently, all accused are found guilty as charged in respect of count one (fraud). As for count two (misrepresenting to a public official) only accused one (Mavhunga) is found guilty as charged," he said.

Magistrate Mugova said Mavhunga and her accomplices exploited the fuel crisis in the country at the time and many people became "gullible" and accepted an "otherwise unknown phenomenon", such as refined diesel coming out of a rock.

He said Mavhunga’s reasons for lying were for "self-actualisation and benefit".

He noted that initially Mavhunga pleaded guilty to the charge when she presented her defence outline after dumping her lawyer Mr Chandavengegwa Chopamba.

However, she later re-engaged him leading to a full trial and altered her plea.

She later claimed in court that she pleaded under duress after being assaulted by the police.

"The State proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mavhunga and her accomplices defrauded the Government and the State. The prejudice to the State is difficult to fathom," he said.

He said there were inconsistencies in the evidence from the defence witnesses, which showed that the "discovery" of diesel was shrouded in secrecy such that "no two people came up with exactly the same position" on what transpired during the period.

He said it was clear that people had been frightened by the "spirit" that was supposedly guiding Mavhunga.

Mavhunga, he said, wanted to hide behind the "spirit" of Changamire Dombo and at some stage gave the impression that the spirit gave evidence in court.

He noted that Mavhunga twice faked a trance during the trial in a bid to hoodwink the court into believing that she could not give evidence.

Mavhunga told the court that she started conducting rituals at the age of 13 and became Changamire Dombo’s "medium" in 2003.

She denied that she solicited anything from Government saying "Changamire Dombo" and well-wishers provided everything she got. (Additional reporting by The Herald)