Source: Zimbabwe’s litany of scandals | The Financial Gazette October 20, 2016
THE country has had a string of corruption scandals that have made headlines since the attainment of majority rule in 1980. Below are some of the scandals that received wide publicity, but were swept under the carpet:
The Willowgate scandal broke out in 1988. It involved high-profile politicians who acquired brand new vehicles from Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries (WMMI) at concessionary prices and resold them at inflated prices at a time when there was a long waiting list for the vehicles at WMMI.
The law, back then, allowed ministers and legislators to jump the queue on grounds that they needed cars for official business. Instead of keeping these cars for their own use, the government officials resold them at huge mark-ups in one of the earliest examples of corruptions and greed by the ZANU-PF elite. The embarrassing scandal netted many prominent names and resulted in one Cabinet minister committing suicide. The late former High Court Judge, Wilson Sandura, led a commission of inquiry into Willowgate.
Two years into the country’s independence, a drought that struck the nation in 1982 created an opportunity for businessman, Samson Bernard Paweni to bribe his way into winning a tender to transport drought relief food across the country. An estimated US$6 million was lost to Paweni because of the underhand deal which involved top government officials who were not even prosecuted. Paweni was jailed for 15 years and had the term reduced to 10 years after an appeal.
War Victims Compensation Fund
Set up in 1994 by government with the intention of compensating those who were injured during the country’s bitter and protracted 1970s liberation war, the War Victims Compensation Fund was hijacked by political elites, who exaggerated their injuries so as to inflate claims from the fund.
Disability percentages varied from 20 to 100 percent for able-bodied political bigwigs, who pocketed handsome amounts of cash in yet another scandal that hardly benefitted the intended beneficiaries. The then leader of the war veterans association, Chenjerai Hunzvi, was at the centre of the corruption. Despite the vast amounts of money that the State lost as confirmed by a commission of inquiry, led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, no one was ever prosecuted.
Harare Airport scandal
In 1995, a tender was floated for a new airport terminal in Harare. Air Harbour Technologies, a company that had been rated number four by the State’s tender board was awarded the tender, not by the tender board, but by Cabinet.
Hani Yamani, a Saudi national, was to later complain bitterly to President Robert Mugabe after being asked to pay excessive kickbacks.
A report on Ziscosteel by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate in 2006 blamed a number of high-ranking government and ZANU-PF officials for looting at the company.
Obert Mpofu, the former industry and international trade minister admitted before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that government officials had looted the parastatal, but later backtracked after his claims had stirred a hornets nest.
Chiadzwa diamonds scandal
Obert Mpofu, as mines and mining development minister, was to also play a central role in the Chiadzwa diamonds saga. A diamond mining executive, Lovemore Kurotwi of Canadile Miners was to accuse Mpofu during a trial in 2013 of seeking a kickback of US$10 million in exchange for a licence to mine at the diamond rich area. The country’s diamond dealings were shrouded in so much opaqueness that Treasury, under former finance minister Tendai Biti, admitted that it did not know what was happening at the diamond mines. President Mugabe was later to reveal that the State could not account for revenues of up to US$15 billion generated from the diamond mines. Commitments to launch an inquiry into the missing US$15 billion are yet to take off.
Dema Diesel scandal
Energy Minister Samuel Undenge in 2016 ignored technical and expert advice that the US$194 million-a-year Dema Diesel Power Plant deal would leave Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), already financially struggling, in deeper dire straits.
The Dema Diesel Power Plant project, a public-private partnership deal between government and Sakunda Holdings, proceeded to take off despite advice from experts flagging it down as too expensive and unsustainable. ZPC would be obliged to pay US$16,1 million upfront every month for electricity generated at Dema. The 200-megawatt project did not go through the tender process.
CMED fuel scandal
In April this year, CMED managing director, Davison Mhaka, was dragged to the courts over his alleged involvement in a fuel scandal which prejudiced the State-owned company of US$3 million. Mhaka acted fraudulently when he authorised a deal with a company called First Oil in February 2013 after a tender was issued for the supply of five million litres of fuel. Prosecutors say Mhaka authorised a tender award to First Oil at a time the company did not have a valid import licence and was also not listed on the State Procurement Board’s list of bulk fuel suppliers. CMED subsequently transferred US$2,6 million to First Oil’s ZB Bank account. The courts were later told that US$100 000 was also paid into the same account, but no fuel was ever delivered to CMED.
The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) in July 2015 was embroiled in a US$54 million procurement scandal after it awarded a deal to buy a vehicle licensing software system to a local company without going to tender. According to the 2014 Auditor-General’s report, the State-owned road authority handpicked Univern (Pvt) Ltd to supply vehicle-licensing software. The same company was in 2013 also awarded a contract to supply road graders without going to tender. ZINARA was in 2012 appointed the collector of vehicle licence fees after government ruled that local authorities were failing to put to good use funds they collected.
Parastatals’ salary-gate scandal
In 2014, it was revealed that parastatal executives were taking home excessive amounts of money in salaries, in connivance with their boards. Executives at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation i.e Happison Muchechetere and Cuthbert Dube at the Premier Service Medical Aid Society, among many others, were to later hog the headlines for earning obscene salaries.