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NetOne Suspended Boss Muchenje Arrested, Again

Lazarus Muchenje, NetOne

Lazarus Muchenje and 6 other NetOne executives have been arrested on charges of criminal abuse of office.

I can confirm that Mr Muchenje and his alleged accomplices have been arrested. The charges relate to alleged criminal abuse of duty as public officers and the suspected violation of the Public Finance Management Act

John Makamure – ZACC Spokesperson

Back in February Lazarus Muchenje was suspended by the NetOne board who alleged at the time that the executive had abused his office on several occasions.

The board claimed that Muchenje awarded himself disproportionate bonuses, bought fuel on the black market, and leased company property at prices that weren’t justifiable among many other abuses.

The allegations

Some of the allegations laid against Muchenje include the following:

  • Muchenje’s domestic workers and security guards were on the NetOne payroll which wasn’t agreed in his contract;
  • The executive leased himself a house in Borrowdale for a fraction of its market value;
  • Awarded himself “a disproportionate bonus” of ZW$510 000 in December 2019;
  • On two occasions in June & August, Muchenje is said to have approved purchase of fuel worth ZW$7.6m and ZW$1.2m without seeking board approval. The purchase was also made from a company that wasn’t ZERA approved and ended up buying the fuel at a much higher price than the pump price at the time;
  • Muchenje also allegedly leased company property for ZW$1 000/month when its actual value was US$2 500-$3 500/month depending on whether or not the property was furnished;
  • Muchenje allegedly bought household goods and appliances worth ZW$623 587 without board approval;

It’s not clear if NetOne’s CEO case actually went to hearing. A few weeks ago NetOne’s Board Chairperson was being investigated for abuse of office – after appointing an acquaintance to preside over Muchenje’s hearing.

Muchenje is expected to appear in court today where the full list of allegations laid against him and other executives will become clear.

He (Muchenje) will appear in court tomorrow as has been advised. I cannot comment on the six other executives as they are not my clients. The charges arise from the same facts as the disciplinary hearing charges that NetOne had preferred against Mr Muchenje but with a few amendments and additions.

Innocent Chingarande – Lazarus Muchenje’s legal representative

Other NetOne executives who were arrested include:

  • Darlington Gutu Chief Technology Officer
  • Tinashe Severa Acting Chief Finance Officer
  • Tanyaradzwa Chingombe Acting Head legal
  • Tawanda Sibanda – Interconnect and roaming Manager

Politics or justice?

This is not Muchenje’s first run-in with NetOne’s Board. A previous board which was later disbanded suspended Muchenje in 2018 after he refused to renew the contracts of 9 senior executives within the company.

Some of the executives who were dismissed by Muchenje had been alleged to be part of Supa Mandiwanzira’s ICT cartel. Supa Mandiwanzira – still ICT minister at the time accused Muchenje of making decisions without consulting board members.

Muchenje was only reinstated as CEO after a new minister of ICT came into the picture – Kazembw Kazembe. The new minister appointed a fresh board and Muchenje dismissed the executives he did not want to work with and peace was found… Or so we hoped.

Given what’s played out over the last half a year we were very very wrong to have such high hopes. Kazembe Kazembe changed ministries and perhaps the new minister has his own opinion on whether Muchenje should run NetOne or not.

Because state-owned enterprises have for so long been subject to the politics of Zimbabwe some have suggested that the position Lazarus Muchenje finds himself might once again be politically motivated instead of a quest for justice. How true are those claims – well, I don’t know but if that were the case it certainly would not be the first time.

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