A FINANCIAL scandal has hit Zanu PF after it emerged this week that corporates were duped into depositing cash donations running into millions of dollars into a parallel 21st February Movement bank account for President Robert Mugabe’s lavish birthday bash held in Victoria Falls a month ago.
Faith Zaba/Elias Mambo
Zanu PF insiders say corporates deposited as much as US$6 million into the parallel account, which cannot be accounted for.
However, a group in the Youth League claims the figure could be as high as US$13 million, which is almost 20 times more than what was officially raised for the 21st February Movement.
The Zanu PF Youth League raised US$700 000 for the 21st February Movement, which hosts an annual event to celebrate Mugabe’s birthday. In a typical “you scratch my back I scratch yours” scenario, companies were once again forced to fund a Zanu PF activity for fear of victimisation or for mutual benefit.
Three suspects — a national women’s league executive member, a state residence employee and a businesswomen with powerful political connections based in the Midlands province (names supplied) — have been sucked into the fraud scandal.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent revealed that two accounts were opened with CBZ Bank for the 21st February Movement, but both accounts have since been flagged.
When an account is flagged, bank security checks the history of the account to see whether further investigation is warranted.
The name of the authentic account run by the youths was “21st Feb Movement”, account number 01122084930021, Kwamwe Nkrumah branch while the name for the parallel account was “21st Feb Mugabe Movement”.
The party is in a quandary over how to deal with the three suspects as it is not clear on whose orders they opened the bank account and what became of the millions reportedly donated by corporates, amid suspicion they got instruction from “higher up”.
The issue is being discussed in hushed tones and no one in Zanu PF is willing to openly raise the scam for fear of being purged, as most party officials suspect that there is a very powerful hand behind the scheme.
“People are scared to talk about this issue. There is fear of attacking the people involved because of the state residence link. In any case, there is a post-congress fear of faction-based purges still underway in Zanu PF, so no one wants to speak out on the fraud,” a national youth league executive member said.
“People are getting away with murder by abusing the name of the First Lady who happens to be the Women’s League boss. What happened to that money (in the parallel account) is a mystery; not a cent went to the bash.”
Sources revealed the matter only came to light after Schweppes Zimbabwe Limited sought an audience with senior officials of the Zanu PF Youth League, who included its secretary for youth affairs Pupurai Togarepi, to express displeasure at comments made in the resort town of Victoria Falls where the company was attacked for refusing to donate to the birthday party.
Addressing thousands of Zanu PF supporters at the Victoria Falls Elephant Hills Resort golf course, deputy secretary for youth affairs Kudzai Chipanga implored Grace to crack the whip on companies that refused to donate to Mugabe’s birthday bash.
Chipanga singled out Schweppes, which he said turned down their request for a donation.
However, it emerged in the meeting that Schweppes had actually donated to the bash and money was deposited into the said parallel bank account at CBZ bank. After investigations by the youth league it was established that the account into which Schweppes had deposited the money was a parallel account to the 21stFebruary Movement one, but the matter was hushed up.
“Schweppes executives met with the youth league at the party headquarters after the birthday bash where they told them that contrary to what Chipanga alleged, they had in fact donated not only water which was drank at the bash but also cash,” said a senior party official who attended the meeting.
“At the meeting Schweppes brought proof of a deposit into the CBZ account and we were able to establish that the account was a parallel one.”
Contacted for comment Schweppes general manager Demos Mbauya refused to discuss the issue, saying “that issue is now water under the bridge”.
The matter was only raised again at a post-mortem meeting of the bash last week on Tuesday, attended by Zanu PF director of administration Dickson Dzora, Togarepi, Chipanga, Zanu PF youth league secretary for finance Tongai Kasukuwere, Mphehlabayo Malinga (external affairs), other national youth league executives, commissariat director Munyaradzi Machacha and his deputy Kizito Kuchekwa.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the Central Intelligence Organisation, police and prisons also attended the meeting.
Party insiders said the issue was raised by Chipanga after Kasukuwere presented a financial report which stated that US$700 000 was raised and spent, and the youth league was owing to the tune of US$40 000.
The existence of the parallel account then came up when Chipanga proposed that the Youth League should lobby party supporters to boycott buying Schweppes products because they refused to donate to Mugabe’s bash.
Dzora quickly intervened and told the meeting that the company had donated cash but deposited it into a different account.
“Chipanga proposed that we take a position as the youth league to push for a boycott with the slogan ‘pasi ne (down with) Schweppes’. He then said after further investigations they discovered that Schweppes had actually donated to the event but did it elsewhere,” said an official who attended the meeting.
“The meeting then asked for an explanation. That is when we found that there was a parallel account, which we now jokingly refer to as the State Residence account.”
“While some youth members are saying the matter is under the bridge and we should forget about it because it might involve some very powerful and untouchable people, some of us are pushing for an investigation into the matter. These are millions of dollars. Because of the amounts involved, we cannot just keep quiet and let it go,” added the official.
However contacted for comment Dzora said he was not in the Tuesday meeting and knew nothing about the parallel account.
The youth league is now pushing for the matter to be discussed at today’s politburo.