FORMER Energy and Power Development minister Joram Gumbo (pictured) was this week unceremoniously demoted to a junior ministerial post due to a string of corruption allegations, gross incompetence and fuel shortages, it has emerged.
LISA TAZVIINGA/NYASHA CHINGONO
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been under immense pressure to decisively deal with his corrupt and incompetent officials who are being largely blamed for failing to proffer solutions to Zimbabwe’s intractable economic crisis, which is characterised by worsening foreign currency and fuel shortages, among other symptoms.
Government sources say Mnangagwa was prompted to boot out Gumbo from the Energy portfolio due to his inability to assume a commanding role towards resolving the fuel crisis, or at least communicating it better.
What proved to be Gumbo’s swansong was how he failed to satisfactorily answer questions from legislators during the parliamentary question and answer session, in which backbenchers ask impromptu questions to ministers on government policies.
Gumbo was at sixes and sevens when asked what was being done to resolve the situation, opting instead to direct legislators to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya.
Gumbo was replaced by Fortune Chasi, who was promoted from being Deputy Minister for Transport.
The Mberengwa East legislator is stalked by a series of corruption allegations and scandals.
“He is Mnangagwa’s close allay, but serious allegations around issues to do with corruption and incompetence kept following him. The president had little choice, but to move him to a less influential portfolio,” a government official said.
Among some of the big corruption scandals in which he has been implicated, Gumbo facilitated the establishment of the dodgy airline, Zimbabwe Airways, in a US$70 million shady deal. At the time he insisted that Zimbabwe Airways was a private company, but questions were raised over why he was playing a prominent role in its establishment alongside former president Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore. Chikore was the chief executive officer of the struggling Air Zimbabwe at the time.
There were allegations that the two wanted to sink Air Zimbabwe to facilitate the rise of ZimAirways.
During the formative years of ZimAirways, US$41 million meant for the recapitalisation of the national flag carrier was controversially moved to the murky airline.
At that time, Gumbo is alleged to have attempted to muzzle the Chipo Dyanda-led Air Zimbabwe board which had requested funds to recapitalise the moribund airline. He eventually dissolved the board.
Gumbo was also accused of failing to ensure that the US$2 billion Beitbridge-Chirundu highway project kicked off.
The project was initially awarded to Austrian contractor, Geiger before government revoked the tender in favour of Chinese Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group.
It was later parcelled out to local contractors.
Gumbo is also accused of systematically obstructing investigations into the alleged looting of funds at the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) to protect corrupt officials during his time as Transport minister.
He allegedly thwarted investigations by muzzling the board and shielding senior ministry officials and Zinara managers involved in a multi-million dollar tender scandal at the parastatal.
The minister reportedly blocked moves by then permanent secretary in the ministry Machivenyika Mapuranga to suspend two senior ministry officials, legal director Angeline Karonga and engineer Eric Gumbie, who is director of roads. Karonga and Gumbie also allegedly tried to block investigations into the abuse of state funds for the rehabilitation of roads in rural areas.
Gumbo is also further accused of protecting detained Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe general manager David Chawota who is facing several corruption and abuse of office allegations.
Gumbo reinstated Chawota after he was suspended by the board to pave way for investigations in 2016. This resulted in board members resigning en masse.
Chawota has appeared in court facing criminal abuse of office charges for allegedly flouting tender processes when he acquired air traffic control and communication systems in a deal worth US$33,3 million.