TINASHE KAIRIZA/MELODY CHIKONO/TINASHE MAKICHI
THE Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) board was allegedly pressured by Treasury to appoint Morris Mpofu as acting commissioner-general, a move which was quickly reversed last week by the government in a dramatic power matrix threatening to paralyse the taxman.
Rameck Masaire, who was set to leave Zimra at the beginning of February after having served as the acting commissioner-general for almost a year, was reinstated barely a week later.
Mpofu, is a former Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) boss, where he had a tumultuous three-year tenure which culminated in corruption charges being levelled against him.
He had been appointed acting-Zimra commissioner-general before being jettisoned within two days.
Although Zimra acting board chairperson Josephine Matambo could not disclose reasons why Mpofu was axed from the influential post in a statement released last week, sources close to his dramatic fall told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that a security assessment by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) disqualified Mpofu.
Approached for comment yesterday, Mpofu declined to discuss the matter.
“I can’t comment on that,” he said, curtly.
Zimra is a strategic organisation in the economy as it collects various taxes on behalf of the government.
However, Treasury ignored the CIO advice which detailed how Mpofu had presided over ZCDC where he later faced abuse of office charges which spilled into the courts. He was accused of recommending a blacklisted diamond dealer to buy gems from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).
Mpofu was cleared of all wrongdoing by the courts.
Multiple security sources told this newspaper that although Mpofu had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing by the courts, his appointment was “unprocedural as he had not yet been cleared by the system”.
There are indications that the US$30 million investment made by the government into ZCDC was yet to be accounted for despite his clearance by the courts.
It is alleged that a Killian Ukama-led ZCDC board on several instances clashed with Mpofu. A damning report was submitted to the CIO and the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
Following Mpofu’s dismissal, a forensic audit was supposed to be done which was expected to clean up the loss-making entity and to date no communication has been made in that regard.
Between April 2015 and April 2016, ZCDC posted cumulative losses amounting to US$50 million.
At Treasury, sources added, Mpofu’s suitability to lead Zimra also sharply divided opinion, with top bosses (names supplied) allegedly angling to have the former ZCDC boss land the top post while senior ministry officials (directors) strongly opposed the appointment.
Those opposed to Mpofu’s appointment at Treasury cited his “pending clearance by the system,” as an obstacle.
Top Treasury directors preferred the Insurance and Pension Commission (Ipec) Commissioner Grace Muradzikwa to take over as Zimra acting commissioner-general.
However, security sources said, top bosses pushed behind their preferred candidate, resulting in Mpofu being briefly appointed Zimra Commissioner.
Mpofu’s appointment at Zimra only lasted two days.
A security source speaking on condition of anonymity said this week: “Mpofu’s appointment was unprocedural. Even though he had been cleared by the courts, the system (state security organisation) did not consider him a suitable candidate. As such, Mpofu was not cleared by the CIO. In fact, the report by the CIO was harsh.”
Finance and Econmic Development minister Mthuli Ncube could not be reached for comment as he did not respond to questions sent via WhatsApp.
Finance and Economic Development secretary George Guvamatanga also failed to respond to inquiries by the Independent by the time of going to print.
Matambo, when called for a comment by the Independent to explain circumstances around how Mpofu was appointed only to be axed two days later said: “I am in a meeting. I will call you back later.”
Subsequent efforts to get her comment were fruitless.
Investigations by the Independent showed that at the heart of the CIO’s report findings, Mpofu is said to have flown with a bloated delegation to Belgium for the Kimberley Process meetings in Brussels.
This is said to have infuriated Zimbabwe’s then ambassador to Belgium Tadeous Chifamba who “alerted authorities at home”. Chifamba is now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the US.
The trip to Belgium was in 2018, where Mines minister Winston Chitando, alongside Mpofu, sought to unlock fresh markets for Zimbabwe’s precious stones.
In 2019, with Mpofu at the helm of ZCDC, a decision which courted controversy was made by the entity’s executive to splurge US$2 million on vehicles at a time the state enterprise was battling to mobilise US$80 million to invest in fresh projects.
The millions splashed on cars happened at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa was calling for austerity measures within state-owned firms.
Guvamatanga in September 2021 said plans were afoot to appoint a substantive chairperson at the tax authority but nothing has been done yet.