Zimbabwe’s High Court has upheld appeals by a former chief executive and a former company secretary of Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare International), quashing their fraud convictions and drawing a line under a saga dating back 15 years.
As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, justices Pisirayi Kwenda and Benjamin Chikowero ruled on January 29 on appeals by ex-CEO Peter Chikumba and former company secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi.
As previously reported in ch-aviation, Air Zimbabwe sacked Pfumbidzayi in February 2014 on charges of corruption and maladministration. This followed a forensic audit that revealed she had allegedly played a pivotal role in an insurance fraud scandal costing the carrier over USD10 million between 2009 and 2013. Specifically, it was claimed that Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba, who stepped down from the CEO role in 2010, awarded an insurance contract to a local company without sending it out to tender.
In 2014, as a result of the audit, the then Zimbabwean minister of transport, Obert Mpofu, fired the entire board of Air Zimbabwe and said authorities had arrested Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba over the matter. In 2015, a court sentenced both to seven years’ imprisonment. However, they were later released from custody on bail pending appeals.
A High Court judge dismissed their first appeal in 2017. However, the pair’s lawyers applied for permission to amend the notice of appeal, resulting in this week’s ruling. ch-aviation has contacted Chikumba and Pfumbidzayi for comment.
Chikumba maintains a presence on social media, with his LinkedIn profile showing he has held a directorship at Zimbabwe’s Vision Leadership Centre since 2016. The profile, which also lists one undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees from the California Coast University, does not mention his demise as Air Zimbabwe’s CEO. Pfumbidzayi maintains a less active online presence. However, a search of UK company records shows she held a directorship in 2021 in an entity called The African Oasis CIC, which works to return and resettle members of the African diaspora in Africa.