July 20, 2018 / 4:08 PM / 5 months ago

Mugabe-era minister jailed for corruption in Zimbabwe

Ex-energy minister Samuel Undenge arrives at the Harare Magistrates Court in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 6, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE (Reuters) - A former minister who served under Zimbabwe’s ex president Robert Mugabe was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years in jail on Friday, his lawyer said, the first conviction of a Mugabe-era official since he stepped down.

Mugabe resigned in November after 37 years in power following a military coup. His former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa took power, vowing to root out corruption in a bid to attract investors to an economy crippled by a decade of hyperinflation and a sharp shortage of foreign currency.

Samuel Undenge, an energy minister in Mugabe’s cabinet, was accused of issuing a $12,650 contract without due tender to a company that did no work.

His lawyer Alex Muchadehama told Reuters that he would appeal the court’s decision, saying the sentence was “shocking”.

He will however only serve two and half years of the four year sentence after the court said 18 months would be conditionally suspended.

Former foreign minister Walter Mzembi faces charges of “criminal abuse of office”, and former finance minister Ignatius Chombo has been charged tried to defraud the central bank over a decade ago. They both deny wrongdoing.

The southern African nation chooses a new president and members of parliament on July 30 in what is expected to be a close race between Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

A poll published on Friday showed the vote would provide no clear winner, with 40 percent of voters choosing Mnangagwa and 37 percent his opponent, Nelson Chamisa.

Reporting by Alfonce Mbizwo; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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