By NQOBANI NDLOVU
LATE former president Robert Mugabe allegedly protested against the arrest of former Agriculture minister Kumbirai Kangai as he pleaded with then Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa to order his release, but without success.
Kangai passed away in August 2013 aged 75 while Dabengwa breathed his last in May 2019. He was 79.
The Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation (DDF), formed in honour of the late Zapu leader has recently been celebrating his life by outlining his contributions in pre- and post-independence Zimbabwe.
In a recent post on social media, the DDF showed how Dabengwa allegedly rebuffed Mugabe’s pleas to release Kangai following his arrest in March 2000 over allegations of corruption in a crooked grain deal worth US$4,6 million.
Mugabe saw this as an embarrassment to the government, the DDF claimed in the post showing how government ministers and ruling Zanu PF officials could have been left to go scot-free after being named for grand theft over the years.
Kangai’s arrest was in connection with the alleged illegal tender procedures used in 1999 by the state-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to import 460 000 tonnes of maize to boost national grain reserves.
“After the police finalised investigations on the GMB scandal, Kangai, the minister of Agriculture, was implicated.
“The police asked Dabengwa if they should arrest the minister. Dabengwa gave them the go-ahead.
“The police proceeded and arrested the minister.
“He was surprised, but did not resist. They went to the police station where he asked to make a call.
“He called his wife to let her know and to ask that she make a few calls and arrange for his release,” the DDF revealed.
According to the DDF, Kangai’s wife “begged and cried” urging Dabengwa to release her husband, but the then Home Affairs minister “explained that no one is above the law and insisted that if Kangai is innocent the courts will acquit him.”
“Mrs Kangai then called Mr Robert Mugabe, the then president.
“She explained that Dabengwa had refused to release her husband. She asked that Mugabe call Dabengwa and negotiate with him.
“She insisted that her hubby was innocent. Mugabe did call Dabengwa to explain that Kangai’s arrest is an embarrassment to the government and that the police must release him.
“He argued that a minister cannot spend a night in holding cells.
“He also told Dabengwa that Kangai’s wife called, worried,” the DDF post added.
“Dabengwa refused. He insisted that the bigger embarrassment is to have a corrupt cabinet minister.
“He reiterated that none is above the law. He was adamant that Kangai spends a night in holding cells as there were no special places for ministers.
“Indeed Kangai spent the night in holding cells. He went to court the following day.
“Dabengwa insisted that (the late vice president) Nkomo was against corruption and that was Nkomo’s legacy that he did not want to betray. Remember to follow.”
In 1981, Kangai was also implicated in irregularities concerning drought relief supplies, but no action was taken and was never charged.
Kangai, one of the original members of Zanu’s Dare reChimurenga, held a few portfolios in government since independence in 1980 and was a Member of Parliament for Buhera from 1980 to 2008.
Kangai was the first Labour minister soon after independence in 1980.
But during his tenure, he was embroiled in the Sampson Paweni and GMB scandal involving the transportation of maize and tendering procedures, causing severe food shortages in the country.