CHIKOMBA: There was shock and disbelief among people gathered in Courtroom 2, Chivhu yesterday when Provincial Magistrate Sam Chitumwa acquitted Chikomba DDC Michael Mariga who was accused of receiving US$60 bribe.
Mariga was trapped by the Police at Chikomba Rural District Council offices on November 17, 2021 and found with US$ notes that had been marked by the Police. He initially denied to the officers receiving any money from the complainant but gave in when the CID threatened to conduct a thorough search of everyone in the office.
Magistrate Chitumwa declared that State evidence was not enough to warrant a conviction of Mariga. He was therefore innocent, ruled Chitumwa
Many people expressed shock as they left court and so were the Police officers who investigated the case.
The Mirror also attended the court case.
Mariga is currently on suspension from the Ministry of Local Government after his boss Tavabarira Kutamahufa who is the Permanent Secretary for Mash East Provincial Affairs said in court that the accused abused his office by receiving money as it was not his duty as DDC to do so. He said it was the duty of those in the accounts department to receive all monies due to council.
Handing down his verdict, Chitumwa said Mariga did not demand bribe but he merely facilitated negotiations for the payment of US$150 from Dangwa Initiative Trust to Chikomba District and Social Services Committee that was supposed to have a special meeting. Dangwa eventually paid US$60 to Mariga.
Chitumwa also said the letter written by Chikomba RDC assistant manager Blessing Chari on November 16, 2021 clearly showed that the money was not a bribe. It was money intended to be used at a special meeting of a committee of council.
Chikomba RDC CEO Bullen Chiwara who is Chari’s boss gave evidence in court and however, distanced himself from Chari’s letter and said council was neither aware of the letter nor the transaction.
Dangwa Initiative Trust Director Teresa Dangwa who paid the alleged bribe said she never received the letter which was supposed to formalize the payment of US$150. She said she first saw the letter in court. The accused and Chari acknowledged in court that indeed Dangwa never received the letter.
Mariga was arrested on November 17, 2021 after Police was tipped that he was demanding bribe from Dangwa in order for council to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with her organization.
Dangwa was then given marked money by the Police and a trap was set. Police moved in just after Mariga received the money. The investigating officer Martin Kadzimu said Mariga denied that he had received any money but only produced it after the officers threatened a thorough search of everyone in the office.
It was not disputed in court that the money was then found in Mariga’s files.
“It is therefore my well-considered view that the DDC did not demand the initial $150 or the finally paid US$60 from Dangwa as bribe money but as a payment which was illegitimately expected for the holding of the special services committee meeting for the MOU business,
“The accused probably received the money from Dangwa but there is no evidence that he received it as a bribe money.
“The accused’s explanation that the US$60 was meant to cover the cost of the special services committee meeting is probably true. He is not found guilty and therefore acquitted” said Chitumwa.
Mariga shed tears when he was acquitted.
He was being represented by Tafara Nsingo of Nsingo and Associates Legal Practitioners.
The state was represented by Corence Chimbadzwa. https://masvingomirror.com