A medicine woman who conned Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government out of about US$1 million by bamboozling ministers into believing she could tap diesel fuel from a rock, was convicted of fraud at the weekend, state media reported on Monday.
Rotina Mavhunga, who goes by the alias of Nomatter Tagirira, found an abandoned fuel tank in the bush near the northern town of Chinhoyi in March 2007.
She filled it with diesel, attached a pipe to the outlet and concealed it at the top of a rock, the Chinhoyi magistrate’s court heard.
She then summoned top government official to witness her “discovery.” At a signal, a hidden accomplice would open the tap on the pipe and the officials would gasp in amazement as refined diesel poured down the side of the rock.
A Cabinet “task force” dispatched by Mugabe to investigate the claim returned to declare that Zimbabwe’s persistent fuel shortages were at an end. Government officials and businessmen lavished money and vehicles on the medium until several months later, when a second group of ministers began to express doubt about the woman’s bona fides.
Judge Ignatius Mugova found Mavhunga guilty of defrauding the government of US$500 billion in the now disused Zimbabwean dollar, the equivalent of about US$1 million and of “misrepresenting to a public official” that she could conjure diesel from a stone, the state-controlled Herald daily reported.
The magistrate also named one of the country’s most powerful civil servants, registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede, as “an interested party” in the fraud.