HARARE — The late former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, responding to Zanu PF threats to crack down hard on corruption, once said: “Everyone in that party would be in jail if we become serious as a country about tackling corruption.”
A private weekly, in an editorial, said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s repeated comments about zero tolerance for corruption was “all becoming confusing” in his Zanu PF party because “a record of fraud, crime and general crookedness is not a hurdle to one’s political ambitions in the ruling party, it is, in fact, a required qualification”.
Last week the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which Mnangagwa has reconstituted, announced the arrest of Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira, who faces a litany of charges from her time as Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister.
The reaction from Zimbabweans was not one of celebrating a blow against corruption, but many were asking: “Why her?”
The perception is that for one to be arrested for corruption in Zanu PF, they must have offended someone powerful, like the president who, because of Zimbabwe’s weak institutions, is believed to have the final word on who gets arrested, and so whose foot did Mupfumira step on to be thrown off the gravy train so spectacularly? Several theories have been advanced.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is battling failing health, is being written off in Zanu PF. At the same time, the Zanu PF women’s wing is intensifying its demands for a seat to be reserved for a woman in the presidium.
A stormy Zanu PF politburo meeting recently heard that before the Zanu PF youth league went public with a list of corrupt officials, on which was Mupfumira’s name, they first went to see the party’s chairperson Oppah Muchinguri “who cleared it”.
Muchinguri, who has twice been left as acting president by Mnangagwa due to the absence of his two deputies on health grounds, is determined to elbow out all her female rivals including Mupfumira, Mabel Chinomona and Monica Mutsvangwa, who was also implicated in corruption by the youths through her children Elizabeth and Neville.
“Mupfumira would be an obvious target for Muchinguri because her ministry is a magnet for press coverage and she has been in the media a lot. Because of the international dimension of her ministry’s activities, it also means Mnangagwa has been seen around her a lot. If you’re outside Zanu PF, those things don’t matter much but for the politicians in there competing for the leader’s favour, it’s a big deal,” a top Zanu PF official told ZimLive.
In The Prince, a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, he says that a general rule that never fails is that “he who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined; because that predominancy has been brought about either by astuteness or else by force, and both are distrusted by him who has been raised to power”.
Even before Chiwenga was incapacitated by poor health, there were signs that Mnangagwa was moving to vanquish the man who put him where he is as the commander of the armed forces that ousted former president Robert Mugabe.
There are many who contributed to Mnangagwa’s new lofty position who have been discarded.
“The choice of Mupfumira could be deliberate. And the timing is very interesting with Mnangagwa away in Namibia. The president and Mupfumira are known to be very close inside Zanu PF.
“Mnangagwa’s ultimate plan could be to sacrifice her so that when he finally moves against his other internal rivals — who are also the same people who put him where he is — he will have the ready excuse that, ‘look, they arrested Mupfumira who’s close to me, I’m not the one instigating the arrests,” said the Zanu PF official, who spoke on condition they were not named.
On their corruption list, the youths also had Zanu PF’s secretary for administration Obert Mpofu.
They also threatened to go after the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda.
Said Machiavelli: “Betrayal is permissible — indeed, recommended — if it advances the prince’s goal of attaining and securing power.”
It was always going to be a major hot potato in Zanu PF — the wife of one of the pretenders to the throne running an anti-corruption agency whose clients are almost exclusively found in Zanu PF.
With Chiwenga seemingly now out of the way, Foreign minister Sibusiso Moyo, the retired general who famously announced the military takeover in November 2017, would be fancing his chances as Mnangagwa’s successor.
Moyo, one of Zanu PF’s rising stars, now has an ace up his sleeve: his High Court judge wife Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo is the new chairperson of the ZACC. In that position, she can quite easily clear the field for her husband with targeted arrests.
Matanda-Moyo has made arguments that she is qualified for the job. She says conflict of interest questions are only being raised because she is a woman.
The questions will only grow louder as more and more of her husband’s internal rivals are trapped by her corruption dragnet.
Several top government officials and the oil company, Sakunda Holdings, have been found by a parliamentary committee to have sunk US$3 billion in command agriculture with absolutely no accountability.
The file is on Matanda-Moyo’s desk — but those implicated in the looting of the US$3 billion command agriculture scheme, which Mnangagwa personally championed, are some of the richest and most powerful people in Zimbabwe.
Sakunda boss Kudakwashe Tagwirei, accused of running a fuel cartel which has taken billions from the central bank, will be no easy target for ZACC — with all he knows and the resources at his disposal.
Grain Millers’ Association chairman Tafadzwa Musarara, who was also on the youth league’s corruption list, has been leading a private-sector financed model of “command agriculture” in partnership with diversified group, Innscor Africa Limited. He would be wondering too if he is targeted for elimination by the powerful command agriculture cartel.
Could they have sacrificed Mupfumira as a diversionary tactic?
Norton MP Temba Mliswa has for years made the most noise about alleged looting at NSSA, but NSSA’s former board chairman Robin Vela once claimed this started after Mliswa’s request for funds to help his political campaign was turned down. He also was furious, Vela said, that his ex-wife, Cynthia Mugwira, had been demoted.
But the politically-minded say Mliswa is intent on rebuilding his power base in Mashonaland West where Mupfumira and Ziyambi Ziyambi, the Justice minister, are currently the high-ranking Zanu PF party members.
A former Zanu PF chairman for the province before he was expelled, Mliswa is intent on propping up his sister, Hurungwe West legislator Mary Thandiwe Mliswa, insiders say. The fall of Mupfumira will clear a major hurdle for Mary Mliswa to properly set up her political stall.
Mliswa is not thought to be contemplating a return to Zanu PF, or joining the MDC, but wants to position his sister as a force in Mashonaland West so that in the event of an indecisive election in 2023, Mashonaland West can come in as the kingmakers for whoever can guarantee the Mliswas a position higher up in the governing food chain — potentially the vice- presidency.
“If the party to cut deals with is Zanu PF, Mliswa has already prepared. If you notice, he has been fighting all his age-mates in Zanu PF, labelling them as corrupt. Within his generation, only one person shines, is clean. He realises Zanu PF will be forced to look at younger leaders beyond 2023.
“He has been fighting Supa Mandiwanzira, for instance. He has picked fights with Dexter Nduna and Justice Mayor Wadyajena, among others. It’s systematic,” the Zanu PF insider said.
For many, Mnangagwa’s corruption crusade will only be taken seriously when high-profile politicians and public officers are convicted and put in jail. For now, Zimbabweans have coined three words for what they are witnessing: “Catch and release.”