Prominent Gweru businesswoman and property developer- Smelly Dube – who is the chief executive officer of River Valley Properties –has been remanded in custody to Tuesday after a Gweru court ruled that she has a case to answer in a fraud case involving more than US$9 million.
Dube was not asked to plead when she appeared before Gokwe regional magistrate Taurai Manwere at the Gweru Magistrates Court yesterday.
She did not attend the court hearing and was represented by her lawyers as she is still recuperating under police guard at Claybank Hospital where she has been admitted since Wednesday last week.
Manwere, said there was no doubt that Dube committed fraud and conspiracy to criminal abuse of duty. Manwere said Dube through her legal team did not dispute the allegations but was focused on the legality of her arrest.
“After hearing arguments from the State and defence, one can see that the accused has a case to answer. She is facing three counts of fraud which are on the request for remand form.
“The defence didn’t argue with regards to the charges, but was arguing that her arrest was illegal, it was unconstitutional. But the court feels that the accused has a case to answer. The accused is remanded in custody to March 9,” ruled Mr Manwere.
Dube was represented by Advocate Joshua Chirambwe taking instructions from her lawyers Nqobani Sithole and MacPatrick Zinyakatira. Her lawyers had earlier made an application to postpone the matter to Tuesday to allow for the verification of cellphone messages with regards to her arrest from the investigation officer with service providers.
Manwere ruled against the application saying it was the duty of the State to verify the authenticity of evidence in court.
The State then called the investigation officer, Assistant Commissioner Themba Mushoriwa, who said Dube was facing three counts of fraud. Asst Comm Mushoriwa told the court that on 28 February, he went to Dube’s house looking for her.
“She wasn’t home and I obtained her cell phone number. I told her that I wanted to see her in connection with the said allegations in which she was jointly charged with her company River Valley Properties,” he said.
Asst Comm Mushoriwa told the court that they agreed to meet at Gweru Police Station on 3 March at 8am.
He said later that day, he was told that she had been admitted to Claybank Hospital. Asst Comm Mushoriwa said they went to the hospital where an arrest was effected. Dube was supposed to appear in court on Friday, but failed to do so as she was bedridden at the hospital.
She was still in hospital yesterday under police guard. In a first at the Gweru Magistrates court, a temporary court was set up at Claybank Hospital on Friday so that Manwere could see for himself the extent of the illness faced by Dube.
According to State papers Dube allegedly worked with former Midlands Governor, Jason Machaya, who was jailed over land deals, last September, former senior Government official Matilda Manhambo and allocated land and developed it without engineering designs.
As a result, 669 beneficiaries suffered prejudice of over US$460 000. On count two and three, Dube, working with Machaya and former Gweru District Administrator Shepherd Marweyi allegedly allocated State land in Gweru, Shurugwi and Zvishavane defrauding the Government of US$9 million.
In September last year Machaya (60) and provincial planning officer Chaisayanyerwa Chibururu (50) were each sentenced to 48 months imprisonment for unlawfully allocating 17 799 stands to land developers in Gokwe town, who in turn gave them 1 000 stands worth US$900 000 which was computed as ZW$900 000.
Dube was arrested by a Special Anti Corruption Commission team on allegations of selling State land.
The scam was reportedly carried out during her time as River Valley Properties Chief Executive Officer. Many people in Gweru and Bulawayo reportedly lost money after buying stands from Dube.
Dube was arrested yesterday while at Claybank Hospital where she is being admitted on an ailment yet to be established.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of Dube this afternoon.
Dube’s illegal sell of state land emanates from justice Tendai Uchena’s Commission of inquiry report.