Former Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Petronella Kagonye has been found guilty of stealing laptops that were meant to benefit schools in her constituency in Goromonzi South.
Kagonye was on Wednesday found guilty of the charges she was facing. She was remanded in custody for sentencing.
In convicting Kagonye, Harare regional magistrate Vongai Guwuriro said the former minister failed to account for the twenty (20) laptops donated to her in 2020 during the course of the trial. Said Guwuriro:
Her defence that she donated them to the less privileged is a far-fetched argument that does not make any sense.
It was in her mind to think they were for less privileged ones. She failed to account for the other 17 and accounted for three, which does not tally with the explanation she gave in court.
According to documentary evidence, 20 (laptops) were for two schools and they were left in the hands of the accused for distribution.
She sent the first begging bowl saying that she wanted to donate the laptops to schools and the court is in a quandary as to what makes the targeted beneficiaries change.
The State led by Zivanai Macharaga called for a custodial sentence saying by stealing public funds, Kagonye committed a serious offence. Said Macharaga:
Accused is accused of stealing public funds which is a very serious offence and Zimbabwe’s ranking on corruption is very bad and the reputation of misappropriating public funds is very bad.
These laptops were meant for rural schools in Goromonzi South where the poorest of the poor learn and she was responsible for social welfare.
The people of Zimbabwe had entrusted the welfare of the poor into her hands and she was the last hope of the poor.
She took advantage of that trust and stole from the poor. I have not seen, possibly in our society, that a minister responsible for the poor steals from the poor.
Through her lawyer Rungano Mahuni, Kagonye pleaded for leniency saying she was a first offender and a breadwinner in her family.
Mahuni argued that Kagonye never stole the laptops in question saying they were donated to the intended beneficiaries.