HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s tourism and environment minister on Friday was charged with criminal abuse of duty in the first corruption case against a sitting Cabinet minister since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office in late 2017.
Prosecutor Michael Reza alleged that Prisca Mupfumira received luxury cars, used government money for personal political campaigns and used pensioners’ funds to bail out a struggling bank and invest in a housing scheme. The state-run pension fund lost more than $95 million through the corrupt deals, he alleged.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, the worst in a decade, has been blamed in part on rampant public sector corruption. A report by the country’s auditor-general released in June exposed massive, widespread graft in government ministries and agencies.
Mupfumira’s lawyer, Charles Chinyama, said the minister did not personally benefit from the deals and should be freed on bail. Harare magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi said he will rule Saturday on a request by the prosecution to detain her for 21 days to ensure unfettered investigations.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has said it is investigating 200 cases, including some involving high-ranking officials. Mnangagwa has called fighting graft a top priority for his administration but has been accused of not doing enough.