Corrupt officials ‘cleansed’ by the passage of time

“HE that steals an egg will steal an ox,” goes a Czech saying which should ring alarm bells to Zimbabwe as politicians and influential individuals convicted of corruption years ago make a comeback after being cleansed by the passage of time.

These politicians were kicked out and rebuked in broad daylight for their corrupt tendencies. Many of them have been brought back into public office and now hold higher posts and influence than the ones they previously occupied when they were first convicted of corruption.

Major scandals which have sucked in politicians and high ranking businesspeople include the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industry (WMMI) in 1989, the VIP Housing Scheme (1995), and War Victims Compensation Fund (1997).

Despite conviction or publicly admitting to wrong-doing, there are politicians who have literally been recycled and have now been reappointed to other bodies, raising questions about the integrity of the institutions they now lead.

The Willowvale scandal, where politicians and politically connected individuals jumped the queue to buy vehicles at factory prices which they then resold at inflated prices on the black market, claimed the scalps of senior politicians after president Robert Mugabe appointed a commission headed by Supreme Court Judge Wilson Sandura to investigate.

Politicians who were implicated in the scandal but have since been cleansed by the passage of time include Fredrick Shava (Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to China), Jacob Mudenda (Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission) and Reuben Marumahoko (deputy minister Regional Integration).

Mudenda, who was the Matabeleland North governor when the case came to the fore in 1989, was described by the Sandura Commission as “an unreliable witness and therefore (the Commission) had no hesitation in rejecting his story.”

Marumahoko was described by the Sandura commission as “unimpressive as a witness and it was clear that he was lying to the commission”. But despite this reprimand he has continued to grow politically and is deputy minister in the coalition government.

Businesspeople who were also implicated in the investigations include current Air Zimbabwe chairman Jonathan Kadzura and banker Enock Kamushinda who have both been involved in the running of state enterprises or parastatals after the scandal.

Kadzura was accused by the Sandura Commission of taking advantage of his closeness to the late Maurice Nyagumbo, then Political Affairs senior minister and Secretary for Administration in Zanu PF to jump the queue and buy vehicles for resale. Nyagumbo, who committed suicide as a result of the findings of the Commission, wrote to WMMI indicating that the vehicles were needed by Zanu PF for party business. Kadzura paid and registered the vehicles in his name for resale later.

An example is when Kadzura bought a Toyota Cressida vehicle for Z$29 705,50 which was Z$5 000 less than the prevailing market value. He went on to sell the vehicle to AW Bardwell (a subsidiary of Lonrho), pocketing Z$65 000 which was more than double the factory buying price.

Less than two decades later, Kadzura who was convicted and paid a fine, was not only chairing Air Zimbabwe board but also sat on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s advisory board.

Kamushinda chaired Zimbabwe Newspapers (a company 51% owned by the state) despite being implicated in the Willovale scandal.

Politicians, senior government officials and security chiefs who  controversially claimed massive disability payouts from the War Victims’ Compensation Fund, set up to help those who had participated in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle in 1997, are still holding top government and military offices.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies John Makumbe says bringing such people back into public office taints the institutions they are supposed to lead.

“By recycling people who have behaved in an unethical manner, we are saying Zimbabwe has run out of people of integrity,” said Makumbe. “People with shady backgrounds such as Jacob Mudenda should not be appointed to serious commissions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. It is unfortunate that he has been appointed to such a body despite his history.”

Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said politicians “capitalised” on the people’s short memory and thus would appoint wrong-doers to other posts.

Makumbe said there was need for a new crop of leaders with integrity but this was going to be difficult.

“The best that can be done is to change the government because there is no one in Zanu PF who has not been tainted in one way or another,” said Makumbe. “We need to start afresh.”

Leonard Makombe

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