Allegations that Helcraw Electricals supplied defective electricity meters were “cooked” in a bid to elbow the company out of the project, the firm’s managing director, Farai Jere, told a magistrate yesterday when giving evidence to support his application for bail on fraud charges.
He is being charged alongside two Zesa engineers over the supply of electricity meters and related equipment worth US$3 566 878 by his company, with the State alleging that he falsified documents to win the contract.
Jere, in his bail application, told Harare magistrate Mr Lazini Ncube that accusations against him stemmed from other companies and individuals that want to take over the meter supply project, which he said was past the pilot stage and now ready for roll out.
He was being led by defence lawyer Mr Tafara Hove when he took the witness stand to testify during his bail application.
Jere denied defrauding Zesa, saying the factory which the State alleges does not exist, is situated in the United Kingdom and he visited it along with Zesa management.
He is jointly charged for fraud with suspended Zesa engineers Leonard Chisina and Freeman Kuziva.
Jere said after the contract was awarded, Zesa was given an option to go to India or the UK where the meters were manufactured.
“During that time, engineers Chuma and Shereni were the ones involved in the project, including testing of the meters,” he said.
“We then went to the UK and we wrote a letter to ZETDC for names of officials that we needed to travel to the UK with and they gave us four names”.
Jere said Zesa decided to pay his company for the supplied meters after being satisfied with the quality of the products.
“On the contract, we were supposed to install 500 meters in each of the regions, which we did, and ended up installing 600 to their satisfaction,” he said.
Jere said Zesa had previous dealings with Secure Meters since in 2013, it supplied state-of-the-art statistical metering worth US$8,5 million and they are still functioning.
He said he was surprised to receive a complaint from Zesa saying the meters were not functioning according to their expectations two years after their supply since these meters had already passed their defect-liability period.
“Sometime in January this year, we were called for a meeting along with a company called Paramount, which also won the same tender to discuss the roll-out of the metering project with ZETDC,” said Jere.
“I only received a complaint in March, which is aimed at elbowing my company out of the project. We are at roll-out stage and out of the total US$56 million, my company is looking forward to US$28 million.”
Jere accused a company called Zest, for trying to hijack the project, saying the same company stood accused of hijacking Zesa projects.
He said Zest was being investigated for improper business conduct and could not be relied upon as it was not legitimately registered. Jere said he will not abscond trial if released on bail, as he wanted to clear his name.
The State led by Mr George Manokore and Mrs Tinashe Makiya had opposed bail for Jere and his suspected accomplices, saying they were facing a serious offence that attracted a jail sentence, which may induce them to flee the court’s jurisdiction.
Mr Manokore said the State had overwhelming evidence, and releasing the three on bail might interfere with investigations.
“They are persons of means and given the opportunity, may choose to find alternative places of residence to flee the jurisdiction,” he said. “They face up to 25 years upon conviction.”
Chisina and Kuziva, through their lawyer, told the court they were on suspension since June 9 and there was no way they could interfere with witnesses.
They said their suspension was extended to September, meaning they will not be permitted to visit Zesa offices.
Harare magistrate Mr Lazini Ncube adjourned the matter to today for the continuation of bail application.