ELECTED on a campaign platform which included a promise to tackle corruption, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s commitment to fighting the rampant scourge will be put to the test in the next couple of days.
One of his ministers, Energy minister Joram Gumbo, confirmed he benefitted financially from a contract through his company which provided services to the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) which was under him at the Ministry of Transport. In a revealing story this week, Gumbo told the state-controlled The Herald a lot of astonishing stuff with a mixture of naivety, arrogance and impunity.
Among other revelations, we were informed that JMCD, a family-owned company in which Gumbo and his wife are directors and shareholders, was awarded a lucrative contract to supply clothing material to Zinara, a parastatal that fell under the ministry Gumbo controlled prior to his appointment to the current portfolio.
Despite overwhelming evidence of conflict of interest and that he abused his position and acted in violation of the constitution and the law, Gumbo claims his hands are clean. Apart from presenting a classic case of conflict of interest, which the dictates of good governance prohibit, the disclosures were worrisome on many levels. Gumbo claims his company won the tender in a competitive process. This is not withstanding the legal provisions of the constitution on such cases. Section 106 (2) of the constitution expressly prohibits Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers from acting in any way that is inconsistent with their office, or exposes them to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests; or use their position, to “enrich themselves or improperly benefit any other person”.
More worryingly, Gumbo did not exhibit any sense of wrongdoing let alone remorse. Whether this is pure ignorance or arrogance on flouting the law in such a brazen manner, the bottom line is Gumbo’s deal is corrupt. Either way, he must face the music. The disclosures come at a time Mnangagwa is championing what he calls a zero tolerance approach to corruption that has seen key figures of his predecessor’s cabinet being arrested and charged for abuse of office and corruption. Samuel Undenge is one such figure. Several other high-profile individuals have been nabbed on charges of corruption since the new government took over last November. How Mnangagwa handles this case will be the yardstick to gauge his commitment to fighting corruption without fear or favour. But will Mnangagwa hold his crony Gumbo accountable? Zimbabweans are closely watching.
As Transport minister, Gumbo brought suspended Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe boss David Chawota back into office despite the numerous corruption charges he was facing. Gumbo was a few years ago in the eye of a storm after it emerged in December last year he had influenced Caaz board to approve the awarding of a 28 million euro (US$33,3 million) tender to Indra Sistemas and Homt Espana SA for the finance, supply and installation of an airspace management system without going to tender. There is also Beitbridge-Chirundu highway project scandal. Mnangagwa must act on corruption fearlessly and impartially.