Robert Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS
Robert Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS

Harare — A former minister who served under Zimbabwe’s ousted president Robert Mugabe was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years in jail on Friday, his lawyer said; it’s the first conviction of a Mugabe-era official since he was pushed out of office.

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power, he vowed to root out corruption in a bid to attract investors to an economy crippled by a decade of hyper-inflation 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 for trying to defraud the central bank more than a decade ago. They both deny any wrongdoing.

The country 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% of voters choosing Mnangagwa and 37% his opponent, Nelson Chamisa.