GOVERNMENT officials in the Ministry of Higher Education allegedly corruptly assisted the Zanu PF-aligned Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (Zicosu) to access more than US$220 000 meant for the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) over a four year period, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
The allegations were made by Deputy Higher Education minister Godfrey Gandawa in several internal memos.
According to Gandawa, ministry officials corruptly facilitated the release of the ministry’s funds totalling US$221 107 to Zicosu from 2011 to 2014. This was despite the fact that the funds were meant for personnel development programmes under Zimdef.
He gave the breakdown of the US$221 107, 00 which Zicosu has so far received as follows: US$18 100 in 2011, US$45 745 in 2012, US$78 082 in 2013 and US$78 082 in 2014.
“The ministry has gone to the extent of even buying air tickets for students from other countries travelling to Zimbabwe for Zicosu meetings and conferences,” Gandawa wrote in an internal memo to ministry staff in November last year.
Zicosu was formed at the turn of the millennium to rival the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu), which was in the past seen as being sympathetic to the opposition MDC formations.
“While it is a prudent idea to have good relations with student bodies, it is also a good practice to manage them. There has been a tendency to splash Zimdef funds on a small group of Zicosu students who now have the power to demand and request budget documents from Zimdef officals,” Gandawa stated.
He also claimed that has been side-lined by senior ministry officials prior to the appointment of Jonathan Moyo as minister in last year’s cabinet reshuffle.
“Much of it is a fight that has to do with paradigm shifts in a ministry that has been the victim of many years of a culture of persecution, systematic intimidation, abuse of power, personality cult and a strong culture of fiefdoms. So strong was this culture entrenched in the ministry that it had turned the ministry into literally a personal property of certain individuals. Corruption and abuse of office were combined to create a fertile ground for looting and abuse of public funds,” Gandawa said.
The deputy minister confirmed the abuse of funds in an interview on Tuesday but said the ministry has stopped disbursements to Zicosu.
“We have since put a stop to the practice and everything is back to normal,” he said.