ZANU PF bigwigs and several senior government officials have fallen prey to a suspected serial con-artist who reportedly peddled falsehoods to set them on a collision course.
Luck ran out for Peter Zvoutete, alias Mugadza (35), when he was arrested on forgery charges on Thursday after he was trapped by Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene (pictured).
The suspected con-artist allegedly had in his possession letterheads of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), Manicaland Provincial Medical Director, and Mutare Mayor’s Office, among others.
He reportedly created fictitious documents with forged signatures, giving them to politicians.
Zvoutete had contact details of several government ministers when police pounced on him and confiscated his mobile phone.
In one message directed to Francis Gudyanga, the Mines ministry permanent secretary, the suspect claimed to have damaging information.
“Pane detail randinaro randirikuda kukupai (There is damaging information which I want to give you),” read the message.
Zvoutete’s alleged shenanigans first came to light on Wednesday during Zanu PF’s routine meetings at the Government Complex when Chimene was discussing with Dangamvura/Chikanga MP Esau Mupfumi a letter she had received purportedly from ZACC, accusing her of failing to settle her debts.
The document was purportedly written by ZACC acting secretary Silence Pondo, directing the anti-graft’s chairman, Job Whabira, to investigate Chimene.
“Mupfumi responded that he had also received such a letter. Chimene and Mupfumi then discussed ways of trapping the con artist and called him to the minister’s office,” said a police source.
“Detectives were already in Chimene’s office and Zvoutete was arrested in the presence of several government and Zanu PF officials.’’
The police source said it was difficult to press extortion charges against the suspect because most politicians did not want to do that fearing they would be embarrassed in public for allowing themselves to be duped by an ordinary person.
“The whole idea of the letters was to extort money, but no one is willing to come forward to make an official complaint,” he said.
Among Zvoutete’s alleged victims are Chimene, Mutasa South legislator Irene Zindi, Women’s Affairs minister Nyasha Chikwinya, lawyer Misheck Mugadza and Mutare mayor Tatenda Nhamarare, among many other officials.
Sources said that Zvoutete had also been masquerading as Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya and his predecessor Gideon Gono as well as Minister of Energy Samuel Undenge and Gudyanga.
Nhamarare confirmed he knew Zvoutete for allegedly forging his signature.
“I know Zvoutete in connection with forging my signature and insulting people,’’ he alleged.
NewsDay Weekender met Zvoutete on numerous occasions as he frequented the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services offices in Mutare where he boasted of having “juicy” information about politicians.
An MP in Manicaland said Zvoutete allegedly fed politicians with false information setting them on a collision course.
Zindi last week said she was aware of a plot by Mupfumi and Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri to topple her as Mutasa South legislator and replace her with Mugadza.
But it has since emerged that Zvoutete was allegedly the source of the conflict.
Contacted for comment, Manicaland police spokesperson Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa said he was out of office.-AMH