Source: Reshuffling deadwood inadequate to curb corruption – The Zimbabwe Independent May 17, 2019
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa this week demoted Joram Gumbo as Energy minister and replaced him with deputy Transport minister Fortune Chasi. Gumbo was appointed Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in charge of Implementation and Monitoring.
Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
Before his appointment to the Energy portfolio in Mnangagwa’s administration, Gumbo also served as Transport minister in former president Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet.
Gumbo becomes the first casualty since the current Cabinet was appointed in September last year after the President and Zanu PF won the July 30 general election.
While Mnangagwa should be commended for removing Gumbo from the Energy Ministry for failing to deal with the crippling fuel crisis and power cuts rocking the country, top government sources have indicated that the demotion resulted from a string of corruption scandals blighting parastatals, which he oversaw as Transport minister.
The other reason, they said, was due to gross incompetence and poor people relations while dealing with the fuel and electricity shortages which have had a devastating impact on business and ordinary Zimbabweans. While he was Transport minister, Gumbo superintended questionable deals in aviation and road networks. He was heavily involved in the establishment of Zimbabwe Airways (ZimAirways), in a deal where close to US$70 million of tax payers’ funds was used to fund a private company. The deal was between the private airline headed by Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore and Malaysian Airlines.
The Air Zimbabwe board chaired by Chipo Dyanda was dissolved after it accused government of neglecting the national flag-carrier and refusing to recapitalise it.
Gumbo allegedly frustrated Austrian contractor, Geiger, in the US$2 billion Beitbridge-Chirundi highway project, whose tender was later cancelled in favour of Chinese Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group (Afec). The minister is also accused of protecting corrupt senior officials at the Zimbabwe National Road Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.
While the demotion is a positive step in dealing with incompetence and corruption at a high level in government, that move alone is inadequate. Mnangagwa needs to do more. Instead of reassigning useless senior government officials, including ministers, to obscure positions, the President must act decisively and fire them if he is to show he is different from his predecessor, whose cabinet was bloated with deadwood and corrupt ministers. Dismissing corrupt ministers and senior government officials will also show that he is committed to dealing with graft.
When Mnangagwa took over in 2017, he said extinguishing the corruption scourge was one of his prime leadership benchmarks. He vowed to tackle this vice, saying there would be no impunity under his watch. By reassigning Gumbo, he is insinuating there are no serious consequences for corruption and incompetence.
Mnangagwa must deliver on his promise to wrestle the rampant corruption cancer which was allowed to flourish unchecked since independence. If the President does not act swiftly, he risks falling into the Mugabe trap of recycling deadwood.