WHILE government is failing to create jobs andsufficiently pay civil servants languishing in poverty, latest disclosures show cabinet ministers are increasingly becoming affluent due to primitive accumulation of wealth through corrupt practices, including double-dipping on benefits and allowances.
Report by Herbert Moyo
Zimbabwe’s ministers are among the most opulent in the region as they get the latest luxury vehicles, such as Mercedes Benz and Toyota Landcruisers, as part of their packages, and also have posh houses.
Added to this lucre of expensive cars and houses some ministers, particularly those from Zanu PF, have huge well-equipped farms and other businesses largely acquired through abuse of office and rent-seeking practices. Most ministers are incessant globe-trotters, attending meetings all over the world which they often treat as holidays trips and getting hefty allowances.
State Enterprises and Parastatals minister Gorden Moyo told the Zimbabwe Independent last week preliminary reports from the Comptroller and Auditor-General following investigations into operations of parastatals in 2011 had unearthed evidence of massive double-dipping in state enterprises by greedy cabinet ministers.
The revelations demonstrate further how political office in Zimbabwe is used as a stepping stone to the gravy train fuelled by corruption and pilfering of state resources, amid failure by the state to hold to account those who steal from the public.
While corruption is now a hallmark of President Robert Mugabe’s rule since Independence in 1980, it is the realisation the Zanu PF gravy train made a brief stop at the Government of National Unity station in 2009 to pick up new passengers from MDC parties that would disturb the majority poor Zimbabweans.
“There is fraud involving ministers and deputy ministers, particularly with respect to travelling expenses which they claim from parastatals even though they get the same from treasury,” Moyo told the Independent. “They even claim vehicles as well and I can tell you this is double-dipping which contravenes the Public Finance Management Act.”
Moyo promised decisive action, saying his ministry would not spare any efforts in dealing with the culprits as it would engage Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over the matter.
“The cancer of corruption has already spread and we will stop at nothing to vaccinate against it and destroy it. We will be engaging the offices of the president, the prime minister, the parliamentary portfolio committee on parastatals as well as the Anti-Corruption Commission to deal with the offenders,” Moyo said.
Although the Anti-Corruption Commission has been set up and given necessary powers to tackle venality, it is hamstrung by political interference and reports of bribery to defeat its efforts.
Complaints of corruption in official circles to Mugabe have also been largely ignored. The case of Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo stands out.
While Zanu PF is submerged in corruption, the MDC-T appears to be trying to catch up as evidenced by events within most local authorities it is currently running.
Senior MDC-T officials have not been as vocal about the abuse of Constituency Development Funds by MPs from the three parties to the unity government as many would have expected, given that the anti-corruption fight has been one of the party’s rallying calls.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party had remained committed to fighting corruption to prevent looting of the public resources.
“We are tackling corruption even within our own ranks,” Mwonzora said. “The MDC-T believes fighting corruption is a progressive thing to do.”
Mwonzora dared anyone with evidence of corruption against party officials to come forward as they were committed to rooting out the scourge even if it meant firing top officials, as demonstrated by the firing of councillors, including Harare deputy mayor Emmanuel Chiroto.
Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure recently demanded that legislators be involved in negotiations with potential investors to prevent corruption by ministers who cheaply give away Zimbabwe’s precious natural resources for kickbacks.
Moyo’s remarks on government corruption follow hot on the heels of an Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa report titled Corruption Cases: Lest We Forget: Bad Leadership Examples for Accountability, Transparency and Integrity in Zimbabwe, which said senior Zanu PF officials have fleeced Zimbabwe of billions of dollars.
It referred to past prominent corruption cases including the looting of the War Victims Compensation Fund, the VIP Housing Scam, the Zisco plunder, Zupco and Willowgate scandals, and the agricultural inputs scams and Noczim scandals, among others.
The trust’s regional coordinator Alouis Munyaradzi Chaumba says all corruption cases should be revisited and culprits prosecuted. “I do not understand why the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Attorney General’s office have been consistently refusing to investigate and prosecute senior government officials, their families, friends and associates implicated in corruption,” Chaumba said. “All the implicated individuals should not participate or contest in any election until they are cleared.”
Political commentator Blessing Vava said politicians’ propensity for self-enrichment at the expense of the impoverished population was “criminal” and “incredible”.
“What is more regrettable is the shocking nature of corruption, especially now exhibited by the MDC-T over and above what Zanu PF has been doing, which has reached unprecedented levels,” said Vava.
“At first we thought the MDC-T was advocating for real change but instead they have just joined the Zanu PF gravy train and adopted associated corrupt practices.”