Heated exchanges flew in an explosive Zanu PF politburo meeting, where bigwigs publicly accused of corruption by party youths came out guns blazing as they defended themselves and accused the belligerent Young Turks of being sponsored by internal rivals to tarnish their images for political gain, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
ANDREW KUNAMBURA/TINASHE KAIRIZA/BRIDGET MANANAVIRE
The youths accused Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu , secretary for education Joram Gumbo, secretary for Environment Prisca Mupfumira and politburo committee member Jacob Mudenda, among others, of corruption.
The youths said Mpofu must clear his name from allegations of corruption relating to how he managed the trade of diamonds during his time as Mines minister, while Mupfumira needed to answer corruption allegations arising from abuse of funds at the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) during the time she was Labour minister.
The youths also accused Gumbo of engaging in corrupt activities in relation to how finances were handled at the Zimbabwe National Road Administration Authority (Zinara) and his involvement in the Zimbabwe Airways (ZimAirways) saga.
The controversial airline was established in 2017 and has been subject to several corruption allegations
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo disclosed at a press conference soon after the politburo meeting that an agreement was reached to allow party leader, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations.
But fresh, intricate details of the explosive Wednesday meeting emerged yesterday, amid indications that the accused heavyweights passionately defended themselves before launching fierce counter-attacks on some of the youth league leaders, especially youth affairs secretary Pupurai Togarepi and his deputy Lewis Matutu.
Politburo sources say discussion on the issue lasted hours as irate party leaders took turns to berate the youths, accusing them of seeking relevance by dragging their names into the mud for political capital.
In his opening remarks, Mnangagwa reportedly said while he applauded the youths for joining his anti-corruption crusade, he was disappointed that they made the allegations without consulting him, in line with party protocol.
“The President said he was disappointed that the youths had decided to jump the gun and made announcements without first reaching out to him for guidance. He said that their decision to fight corruption was a noble idea, although they needed to first have approached his office,” a politburo member who attended the meeting said.
Gumbo, sources said, was the one who suggested that Mnangagwa should set-up the commission as he vigorously defended himself. “Gumbo said the youths were misplaced since their allegations were broad and lacked specificity.
He said the youths just made generalised allegations,” the politburo member said.
Gumbo is also said to have argued that all the things he did as Transport minister were above board. On Zinara, the source said, Gumbo said he actually noted anomalies which were happening and ordered a forensic audit to be undertaken on the parastatal.
The subsequent audit, by Grant Thornton, exposed serious cases of corruption and abuse of office by senior managers.
Gumbo is also said to have argued that he was ready to defend himself against allegations of graft at ZimAirways, stating that he was not responsible for handling finances which went towards the purchase of two wide-bodied Boeing 777 planes from Malaysia in 2017.
After Gumbo spoke, sources said a furious Mpofu — who sat at the top table in the absence of the ailing Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga — took a swipe at the “overzealous youths who were according themselves too much power”.
Mpofu reportedly told the meeting that on arrival at the Zanu PF headquarters, he was confronted by the party’s youth league commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu, who told him not to proceed to the meeting because some youths had gathered around the entrance leading into the party headquarters with the intention of denying him entry.
“Mpofu reported that the youths had become too big-headed, saying Tsenengamu had tried to block his entrance into the building, backed by a gang of Mbare-based youths,” a source said.
Mpofu told the politburo members that he informed Tsenengamu: “Let those youths try something silly, I will teach them a lesson. They are idiots.”
Mupfumira is also said to have expressed great disappointment with the behaviour of the youths, alleging that they were being sent by some big people in the party to soil her image for political mileage.
“I think she spoke for the longest time. She was clearly angry with Matutu and Togarepi, describing them as vana mambara (mischief makers) who went around spreading lies about her. She also said she felt greatly humiliated because her children and grandchildren were asking her about the corruption allegations. She also said the timing for the expose was wrong since it came when she was officiating at the African Wildlife Summit in Victoria Falls and that had greatly tarnished the image of the country globally,” another politburo member said.
Mupfumira told the meeting that she strongly believed there were some powerful political figures that were sending the youths to soil her image and affect her social and political standing for political reasons.
In his contribution, former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, chastised the youths, particularly Matutu and Togarepi for failing to follow party structures.
“Chinamasa took aim at the two for jumping the gun. He said that he was surprised that they would do so, especially after the politburo recently came to their rescue after their fellow youths passed a vote-of-no-confidence on them without following proper procedures. He told them that what they were doing was not different from what those other youths had done to them and they should therefore have known better. He also said that he believed that Matutu and Togarepi were making noise to gain political relevance,” another senior Zanu PF official who sits in the politburo said.
Togarepi, who was absent from the name-and-shame Tuesday press conference, is said to have refrained from the debate, opting instead to let his deputy speak. Matutu is the one who presided over the press conference.
The youth league leader reportedly sought refuge by stating that he had only addressed the press conference on behalf of all the youths and apologised for failing to follow stipulated party structures.
“He (Matutu) did not say much. He simply said he addressed the press conference on behalf of the youths. He then apologised for jumping the gun and that was that,” a politburo source said.
Khaya Moyo declined to comment on the issues raised in an interview with the Independent yesterday, saying the press statement he gave on Wednesday was sufficient. “I have already given a statement on what transpired in the politburo meeting and that is sufficient. I am not going to add anything more,” he said.