Corruption watch WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
The biggest problem with the post-Mugabe administration is that it has this weird fantasy of itself as an award-winning film producer. But that’s a no-no because the ruling band is only good with the pictures yet very, very bad at sound.
There is no reason why you shouldn’t claim your money back and toss the ticket into the loo. Zimbabweans have no time for mime because they are not comfortable with lip-reading even at those rare times when we get electricity and gurgling water taps.
Just last week, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) arrested the Environment and Tourism minister, Prisca Mupfumira. She has since appeared in court facing a litany of charges that, overall, indicate that she allegedly stole close to a hundred million dollars from government, particularly from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), when she was the Social Welfare minister.
That has kicked up a big ball of dust locally and internationally. A largely boring media has suddenly found work to do. The ZACC chairperson, Loice Matanda-Moyo, is busy doing propaganda for the commission, telling people that the arrest shows how serious her outfit is with matters to do with corruption. And President Emmerson Mnangagwa is silently hoping that people will buy his lumpy lie that he is committed to fighting corruption.
That’s a short and low throw. No one, but a few pathological loyalists, will be fooled. Mupfumira’s arrest has nothing to do with fighting corruption. Yes, when you look at her face closely, she looks guilty. But the arrest is clearly a political game, and that’s a different story altogether.
Have a look. Mupfumira was arrested at the instigation of the Zanu PF youth league, square. The timing is telling. Previous attempts to get her into the dock or somewhere close to that were ignored. Remember, during ex-president Robert Mugabe’s last days, the minister, then in charge of Labour and Social Welfare, was removed amidst accusations that she was tainted. That was the time when we got to know about a damning forensic audit report indicating that mega-millions were stolen from NSSA. Mugabe, again tellingly, announced Mupfumira’s and others’ removal from Cabinet at a youth league rally in October 2017.
Yet, when Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe a month after Mupfumira’s removal, he took her back and made her a minister, this time in charge of her current portfolio. He knew about the unflattering forensic audit report, yet retained her again after last year’s general elections. Prior to that, Mupfumira was not exactly on his side in the Zanu PF factional war to succeed the aged Mugabe. Loudmouths like Temba Mliswa, who should know a lot about Mupfumira because they worked together in Mashonaland West when he was the provincial chair and Mupfumira a high-ranking party official, claimed at one time that she was on the other side with G40 and only cosied up with Mnangagwa after her removal from the Welfare portfolio.
Remember again that, when Mnangagwa took over, Mliswa raised the red flag on the NSSA report and called for action, precisely describing Mupfumira as a good candidate for Chikurubi for her alleged lack of probity at NSSA, where current charges say money was fraudulently channelled to her bank accounts. Neither ZACC nor the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) that works from Mnangagwa’s back office were interested.
It was only when the youth league waved around a list of Zanu PF officials that it claimed were corrupt — Mupfumira on it — that she was subsequently arrested. That’s informative. Zanu PF has a rich history of using the youth league as a pawn to fight inside political enemies. There was a cross-country hive of rallies when G40 was decampaigning Mnangagwa, who Mugabe subsequently fired in late 2017 before the army helped him back. Mugabe used the youth league to counter war veterans who were campaigning for his removal, again in 2017.
The youth league was also used to try a counter against a sublime military campaign pushing for Mugabe’s removal. The youth league is a handy tool for those in power in Zanu PF. Youths were used in 2008 to maim and kill opponents of the ruling Zanu PF. They are the ones who manned the torture camps across the country when the country went for a run-off after the late Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of elections in March of the same year. Mnangagwa was there. He was Mugabe’s chief elections officer, so he must know a good number of things about the power of the youths.
It’s not yet clear at what stage Mupfumira became a persona non grata in the current Zanu PF. What is obvious, though, is that she became one at one time.
Hence the choice to arrest her and make her a sacrificial lamb. Zanu PF routinely chooses sacrificial lambs — if not political foes — for prosecution. In the immediate stages after the coup, several ministers were arrested or charged. They were, again tellingly, Mnangagwa’s enemies. These included Ignatius Chombo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo, Dzikamai Mavhaire and Samuel Undenge. All of them belonged to G40.
Well, Undenge is an exception on this list. He is the only one who has been convicted. His crime? He fraudulently handled a US$12 000 transaction? All the others are accused of siphoning millions. It could be that Undenge must have done something worse than his factional colleagues or was just too weak a link in G40 and elsewhere. The latter sounds more plausible. Who cared about Undenge besides his wife and children, after all? His mistress who had been all over claiming maintenance for adult children certainly didn’t.
But there is another dot in the matrix. If the Mnangagwa administration, ZACC and Sacu were sincere about Mupfumira’s lack of probity, how come the NSSA forensic audit remains a closely guarded secret? For some time now, Parliament has been putting up an angry fight to get the forensic audit made public. It has actually prescribed that Sekai Nzenza, Mupfumira’s successor at NSSA as Labour and Social Welfare minister — be jailed for contempt of parliament for failing to adduce the report in Parliament as promised. She seems to have shoved it somewhere, hardly anywhere near where you and I can see it.
That’s interesting. You can’t hide something from people and then use that thing to nail someone in public. It’s a contradiction in terms. And Nzenza is working within a political context where Mnangagwa is the centre. Meaning that Nzenza has received a signal from within the matrix that the NSSA forensic audit is hot stuff. But if the stuff is hot, then there is something to hide, or some people are being insincere. Both possibilities are real.
The forgoing feeds a good guess. Mupfumira’s arrest and appearance in court is an embarrassment for her. She is now a persona non grata who, coincidentally, could have committed the crime. She is going to get a golden handshake and go. And her case will take light years to conclude. Who cares but the insignificant povo?
Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT), and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org