The ruling party in Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF, has warned the public and journalists against “attacking” members of the first family.
Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, Patrick Chinamasa, the party’s acting spokesperson, said it was aware of an “unscrupulous” and “sponsored” agenda.
“Zanu-PF has noted with concern the systematic well-choreographed and sponsored attacks on the integrity of the first family. They need to stop forthwith.
“ … We warn the public and those writing these lies to stop,” he said.
The caution follows reports alleging a Covid-19 supplies scandal involving the president’s son Collins and Drax International, which invoiced the government about R17m. However, when documents of the transaction were leaked into the public domain, the government denied the deal.
Collins Mnangagwa issued a statement saying he had no ties with the firm while Drax International said it “has never met, communicated or done any business with any members of the first family”.
A series of pictures were then shared on social media featuring Collins and his mother, first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, separately with Drax International’s Zimbabwe representative, Delish Nguwaya. One of the pictures was taken at President Mnangagwa’s inauguration after the November 2017 coup at the National Sports Stadium on November 24 2017.
Chinamasa said the president has pictures taken with people as a sign of goodwill, especially those who donate towards the Covid-19 fight, as well as business people locally and internationally, and that does not amount to him or his family being part owners of those businesses.
Chinamasa’s warning to Zanu-PF’s “detractors” drew the attention of Hopewell Chinono, a journalist who was singled out in the statement. Chinono said, “I’m only a detractor of corruption.”
Crisis Group’s senior consultant for southern Africa, Piers Pigou, said the threats on freedom of expression reflect the DNA of a ruling party which has failed to address corruption.
Meanwhile, appearing before a parliamentary portfolio committee on finance on Wednesday, the ministry of finance’s secretary George Guvamatanga said when it comes to procurement of supplies (chiefly medical) his ministry avails funds only after the parent ministry decides what is needed.
“Treasury does not procure on behalf of any ministry. We do not have expertise,” he said, distancing himself from the Drax International scandal.