Knives are out as the Zanu PF politburo meets for an extraordinary session over alarming corruption exposures and attendant divisive internal issues following public clashes between Vice-President Joice Mujuru and ministers working in liaison with President Robert Mugabe’s office on the controversial and sensitive issue in which those handling it already face a fierce backlash and unpleasant consequences.
By Faith Zaba
Alarmed by renewed factional and succession clashes triggered by the issue, which has left a taste of bitterness and anger among the public ahead of the party’s crucial elective congress in December, Mugabe summoned the Zanu PF politburo for a meeting today to tackle the conflict-ridden issue, signifying there are fears the matter could spin out of control if officials continue fighting in public.
Mujuru reacted angrily to the scandalous salary revelations at the state-run broadcaster, ZBC, Premier Service Medical Aid Society and Harare City Council, as well as corruption at Air Zimbabwe and other parastatals and quasi-state enterprises which have caused a public outrage, suggesting there were underlying political motives behind the anti-corruption campaign.
In remarks, which appeared targeted at Information minister Jonathan Moyo, widely seen as the force behind the corruption disclosures by the media, Mujuru last Saturday in Chinhoyi said the graft revelations could be a regime change ploy aimed at destroying the country. She said the corruption leaks were coming from within Zanu PF, insinuating the party has been infiltrated and there was a Fifth Column plotting change from within. She also insinuated a factional conspiracy behind the media exposures, demanding the press must back off.
“Please listen to me ladies, regarding reports of corruption in parastatals — be careful — it’s another tactic being used by those keen to destroy the country,” she said. “Do not say these people are not Zanu PF … it is said if you can’t beat them join them and attack from within, so be careful.”
Mujuru went on to say “these issues must not be dealt with by newspapers”, proposing the media must not be involved in exposing corruption or be gagged.
This triggered a fierce backlash against her in the corridors of power and among the public, with some of those outraged by the remarks demanding her resignation.
Government and Zanu PF insiders say what made the situation worse is that Mugabe’s office is actually the one directly dealing with the issue of parastatals and corrupt salaries.
A document on the salaries and benefits of CEOs of state enterprises and local authorities seen by the Zimbabwe Independent shows the rationalisation of parastatal and local authority salaries was actually directed by cabinet on November 26 last year after the Office of President and Cabinet received detailed information from relevant line ministries on salaries, benefits and allowances of public enterprises executives.
As a result, work on the formulation of a remuneration policy framework for parastatals is being finalised and a report is likely to be presented to cabinet anytime now.
So Mujuru’s outburst was seen as an attack on Mugabe’s office and cabinet given that they triggered the anti-corruption process. The President was also reportedly “dismayed” by the outrageous salaries at public enterprises.
Against a backdrop of renewed internal strife, Mugabe called for an extraordinary politburo meeting in Harare today to tackle the issue threatening to spiral out of control.
To show the meeting was critical, Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo said all members should attend without fail.
“All politburo members are advised that the President and First Secretary, RG Mugabe, has called for an extraordinary politburo meeting to be held at Zanu PF Headquarters on Friday 14 February 2014 at 10am,” Khaya Moyo said in a circular to politburo members. “All politburo members should attend without fail.”
This comes amid fears the party now wants to control the anti-corruption campaign to shield high-level officials from scrutiny, while targeting low and mid-level miscreants among public officials.
While the current campaign features moral exhortations and a crackdown on extravagant public officials, it is widely feared the drive would not net the big fish and thus fail to get rid of the venal characters in high places.
“While the politburo meeting might debate the corruption issue, perhaps come up with suggestions of a policy framework or a systematic approach, the danger is Zanu PF officials, most of whom can’t really stand scrutiny because they live beyond their means, might agree not to commit collective or class suicide; meaning nothing will be done to get at the systemic rot that plagues the political system and state enterprises,” a senior party official said yesterday.
“Despite the fact there have been efforts to deal with corruption, what remains untouched is the vast, largely unregulated sphere of influence-peddling, backroom deal-making and collusion between public officials, business executives and entrepreneurs as well private sector players. Corruption is ubiquitous in this country and do you think the politburo will resolve to do anything serious?”
Zimbabwe was ranked 157 out of 175 countries by Transparency International in 2013 on a scale rating perceptions of public sector corruption.
According to the circular, the extraordinary politburo meeting was called by Mugabe although it was silent on the agenda of the meeting.
Party insiders said members of the Mujuru’s faction — who dominate the politburo — are set to come out guns blazing against the exposures of corruption which they feel are targeted at their allies to weaken their camp ahead of the congress in December.
The two factions, led by Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, are likely to clash given what Mujuru’s confrontational reaction.
While the Mujuru faction is against what it described as “haphazard” exposures targeted at its members, the Mnangagwa faction and Jonathan Moyo, both of whom have spoken out against corruption, are likely to maintain their stance.
In fact, Jonathan Moyo yesterday fired warning shots in response to attacks on him by former ZBC board member retired Brigadier-General Benjamin Mabenge, saying: “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 or abuse of funds at ZBC or at any other parastatal, regardless of the position or history of the person making the justification.”
Jonathan Moyo’s remarks appeared to be also a response to Mujuru’s statements.
Mabenge, a war veteran, dramatically stoked tensions when he accused the minister of trying to “induce mutinous riots as a way of marching to State House”. He further accused him of trying to “incite a coup”.
Mabenge is said to belong to the Mujuru camp after falling out with Mnangagwa in 2005 when he contested against him in Zanu PF primaries before general elections. In an interview with the Independent this week, he defended Mujuru, echoing her remarks that some people were being targeted for political reasons in the anti-corruption crusade.
Jonathan Moyo, however insisted his ministry will continue to do its job “without fear or favour”.