Ballooned salaries exposé assumes political sub-plot

A POLITICAL sub-plot has emerged in the salary scandal which involves senior executives in parastatals and quasi-state enterprises, amid growing protests by some senior Zanu PF members that the issue has assumed a factional and succession dimension.

By Faith Zaba

In private briefings with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, senior Zanu PF officials said while it is good to expose corruption at parastatals and quasi-state enterprises, there are deep suspicions and fears that only those aligned to Vice-President Joice Mujuru are being targeted.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) salary scam seems to be mainly exposing the incompetence and excesses of former Information minister Webster Shamu and its suspended chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere, both of whom are said to be aligned to Mujuru.

The ZBC boss was earning a basic monthly salary of more than US$27 000 in addition to monthly allowances for housing at US$3 500 per month, US$2 500 in domestic workers’ wages, US$3 000 for entertainment and a general allowance of US$3 000. He was raking in about US$40 000 per month, excluding fuel and other benefits, while workers at the insolvent broadcaster went unpaid for seven months.

The same fears or suspicions are also rife at the Public Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) where retired CEO Cuthbert Dube, who was also chairing the recently dissolved ZBC board, was getting a basic salary of US$230 000 per month which rose to over US$500 000 including benefits.

Senior party officials believe Dube was also being targeted because of his close links to Mujuru. It is said Dube was very close to the former Zimbabwe National Army commander, Retired General Solomon Mujuru, who died in a mysterious inferno at his Beatrice farm in August 2011.

The Mujuru faction members claim the salary scandal disclosures are being used to target their camp while sparing those linked to the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Although President Robert Mugabe has expressed outrage at the salaries scandal in high-level meetings with his cabinet over the issue, this has not stopped the two main factions from pointing fingers at each other on the matter.

The only other ministers that have spoken out are Information minister Jonathan Moyo, who promised that there would be no cover-up on the issue and Mnangagwa, who told parliament this week that corrupt individuals would be dealt with in accordance with the dictates of the law.

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said this week his party did not condone corruption and would deal decisively with the scourge.

Gumbo said the “intricate” issue needed a comprehensive plan and policy to deal with it.

“Those involved in corrupt activities must and will face the full wrath of the law and we are determined to make this a reality. For our part and for the avoidance of any doubt, we wish to make it known that we will take decisive measures to eradicate corruption in all forms.”

Gumbo added: “We would also like to thank the media, both public and private, for their concerted efforts in bringing this shameful situation to public light.”

Some senior Zanu PF officials concurred with Gumbo saying there was need for a policy on corruption and for the party to identify an effective system to deal with corruption.

“If it (the anti-corruption fight) is done in a haphazard manner as is being done now, it can be hijacked for political reasons,” said one politburo member.

However, other senior party officials say while the exposé on corrupt executives was desirable, it should not be used for cheap politics.

“Corruption is bad. Those who are corrupt must be exposéd, but it must not be used to target certain individuals in the party because they have different views from others,” said a top Zanu PF official.

“What we are seeing is no longer an anti-corruption campaign, but a factional crusade. If it is allowed to continue, it will end up doing more damage to the party and remember 2018 is not too far. If this continues and is mishandled, then it will help revive the MDC. We have noticed that there is a pattern of targeting some people for political reasons.”

The sources said generally, cabinet ministers who have discussed the issue in their factional meetings are uncomfortable with the way things are being done.
Mujuru all but confirmed that her faction is viewing the corruption revelations as being connected to Mugabe’s succession when she said detractors were behind the ongoing exposures.

Mujuru was addressing a provincial women’s conference at the weekend when she suggested that those leaking details about corruption at parastatals are Zanu PF people bent on destroying government and the party from within.

She suggested that the media campaign was part of a crusade by enemies within Zanu PF working for the downfall of the party.

Her statement torched a political storm over her utterances with a group aligned to Mnangagwa saying: “She has shown that she is not a leader. It is all over the radio, I can’t believe she said that.

“This is why some of us believe she can’t be the next leader for Zimbabwe. I don’t think that she can replace President Mugabe.

However, retired Brigadier-General Benjamin Mabenge says Mujuru’s presidential credentials should not be judged from her statement.

“There are many indicators which show what she raised is true. There is more to this saga or these exposures,” he said. “What do you think happens when God and Satan collide? The result is total chaos.

Mabenge, who fell out with Mnangagwa in 2005 when he contested against him in the party primaries, believes Moyo is behind the media campaign targeted at Mujuru’s allies.

He accused Moyo of working with a small group in the party to discredit Mujuru and her allies ahead of the 2014 elective congress in December.

Mabenge, however, refused to disclose the other members of Moyo’s camp, preferring to say “the group is so small that it cannot match the number of cabinet ministers”.

“The whole purpose of this attack is to create such tension as to induce mutinous riots as a way of marching to State House. I just hope the party leadership sees through this and finds a solution, no matter how harsh it would be,” he said. “What he is trying to do is to incite a coup. But all I can say is that there is no chance of anybody in the military coming on board. It is common knowledge that we have the most professional military force.”

Mabenge added: “It is not right that within the party, there should be these sentiments we are currently witnessing. What happens in Zanu PF will have far-reaching effects on the political culture which will guide Zimbabwe tomorrow.

“It is also unfortunate that our people do not seem to appreciate the conspiracies. To ring-fence the press with razor wire is not a reflection of good governance at all and it cannot be condoned by anybody.”

He accused Moyo of abusing his office by allegedly using the media to target Mujuru, who is the most senior party member among those tipped to succeed Mugabe.
Mabenge urged the public and private media not to allow themselves to be used by people whom he described as “opportunists trying to leap-frog others into State House”.

“Which investor will come to Zimbabwe if the country is full of thieves that are never brought to book? Moyo wants the whole country to panic and make them believe that he is building the country,” he said. “There is a heavy undercurrent of a diabolic hunger for power within Zanu PF among people that want to take a shortcut by declaring that seniority does not matter.”

However, another senior party official said there was no such conspiracy.

“That is a very poor line. In the first place, these things did happen and no one is creating them. This is about fighting corruption and not about factionalism or succession,” said the official.

Apart from Muchechetere and Dube, there is speculation that some of the people being targeted include Shamu, Labour minister Nicholas Goche through Air Zimbabwe which was rocked by an insurance scam by senior managers and Navistar Insurance Brokers who allegedly looted more than US$10 million over five years from the national airline and former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono.

In response, Moyo insisted ridding the country of the scourge of corruption should be done in the national interest above all other considerations.

“The allegations you are putting to me are coming from someone who was part of the ZBC board that I dismissed on 14 November 2013. That, I suppose, establishes the context and perspectives of his claims,” he said.

“Otherwise I have no problem whatsoever appreciating the important fact that in our constitutional democracy everyone is entitled to their opinion even if it is hot air.

“The bottom line though is that there can be no reason or excuse for corruption, therefore, none will be accepted to justify the looting of assets and abuse of funds at ZBC or at any other parastatal, regardless of the position or history of the person making the justification,” Moyo said, adding that his ministry does its job without fear or favour.