Give him seven years – AG

HARARE - The chairman of a state-owned bus company who solicited for a US$85,000 bribe from the owner of a bus-manufacturing firm that had a contract to supply coaches should serve far longer than the three-year minimum prison term he was given, a magistrate court heard here on M

onday. Harare magistrate Lillian Kudya sentenced Charles Nherera to an effective two years in custody after wholly suspending one year of the term at the end of a high profile corruption trial that has also sucked into its vortex junior deputy Information minister Bright Matonga. Law officers representing the Attorney General told the court in a landmark appeal that the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) boss should serve at least seven years so as to send a strong signal that government was serious about fighting corruption. The law officers said the sentencing magistrate was too lenient and had given Nherera too much credit for pleading guilty to accepting the US$85,000 bribe from businessman Jahesh Shah of Gift Investments who was seeking a tender to supply buses. At Rotten Row Magistrates Court, he had pleaded guilty to receiving US$5,000 for each bus and asked the magistrate that she offers him an option for a fine since the state did not suffer any prejudice. Law officers said Nherera’s crime was “almost beyond comprehension.” He had blatantly abused his position. The officers said in their submission that he had “no option but to plead guilty” because of the “overwhelming and unassailable evidence” against him.
If the AG manages to tighten Nherera’s prison term, it could lead to a shake-up in rules that give shorter prison terms to corruption offenders who enter an early guilty plea. “The sentence must reflect society’s abhorrence of what he did. There is no doubt that Nherera is a corrupt man who abused his position even on his own admission.” Nherera, who is said to be close to President Robert Mugabe, is also the vice chancellor of Chinhoyi State University.

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