Share ownership trust funds looted

Fierce wrangles have erupted over the administration and disbursement of the funds allocated to community share ownership trusts launched by President Robert Mugabe last year as part of Zanu PF’s campaign to regain critical rural voters ahead of elections next year.

Report by Elias Mambo

 

The tiffs pit the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, which initiated the schemes, the Ministry of Local Government, the custodian of the trustees who are chiefs, and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) that is responsible for the disbursement of funds.

Sources say these three organs are fighting among themselves while at times conniving to loot the funds that would have been contributed by companies that have complied with the indigenisation laws, leaving the intended beneficiaries, the communities, out of the equation.

“There are three arms that are wrestling for total control of the schemes and this results in lack of accountability,” said a well-placed source in the Indigenisation ministry.

The source said the funds, administered by NIEEB, are being run in an opaque manner, creating fertile ground for rampant corruption and embezzlement.

The militarisation of the new board of directors for (NIEEB) was likely to worsen transparency and accountability deficits which the previous board incurred.

Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere yesterday announced a new board of directors for NIEEB, chaired by retired Major-General Mike Nyambuya. The board includes Indigenisation acting secretary George Magosvongwe, legal practitioner and member of the previous board Farai Mutamangira and founder and chairman of Savanna Tobacco Company and outgoing board member Adam Molai, among others.

The appointment of Nyambuya to the helm of the indigenisation fund further consolidates militarisation of institutions Zanu PF deems strategic to its political and economic survival. Nyambuya joins the ranks of retired Brigadier Mike Karakadzai at NRZ, ZTA’s colonel Karikoga Kaseke and ZBC financial director Brigadier General Elliot Kasu, among others.

Kasukuwere’s ministry yesterday also presented compliance certificates to companies that registered their approved indigenisation programmes. The certificates were issued by NIEEB.

However, there has been no fanfare surrounding the issuance of shares certificates to beneficiary communities, nor has there been much publicity about the trust deeds.

It is this opacity which those involved say is creating opportunities for rent-seeking behaviour and corruption. Last year, five chiefs in Zvishavane, namely Mazvihwa, Masunda, Mapanzure, Wedza and Mafala, dipped into US$2 million dollars from Mimosa Mine under the Zvishavane Community Share Ownership scheme. The chiefs then awarded themselves US$5 000 each as sitting allowances for meetings they attended to decide on how to share the money.

This sparked a furore with Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo who directed the Zvishavane chiefs to return part of the US$2 million they had shared among themselves. Chombo ordered that the funds be administered by Zvishavane district administrator, with Runde Rural District Council conducting disbursements of the funds.

In an interview yesterday, Kasukuwere said the funds should be run by local boards comprising chiefs, councillors, a lawyer and an accountant, who is the custodian of the scheme which is given a share certificate. He said the empowerment programme is set to benefit the communities and not the individuals.

“The community benefits through construction of infrastructure like roads, clinics, schools and water facilities,” he said.

Outgoing NIEEB chairman David Chapfika dismissed allegations of misappropriation, maintaining that once funds have been disbursed the onus on what to do next lies with the local board of trustees, which includes chiefs. He also refuted allegations that funds remain held in the NIEEB accounts instead of being deposited into the trustees’ accounts.