Minister in corruption, robbery storm

Education Minister Lazarus Dokora reportedly diverted a vehicle donated to benefit schools to his constituency where it was subsequently robbed and burnt.

Education Minister Lazarus Dokora
Education Minister Lazarus Dokora

Sources told The Zimbabwean that the NP300 truck was one of six vehicles the ministry received last year to assist operations under the $73 million School Improvement Grant (SIG).

A pilot SIG project was carried out in Goromonzi last year and a national rollout of the programme, whose funds are managed by Unicef, was supposed to commence in January this year but only took off in May.

Sources privy to the SIG programme said Dokora, who is also Zanu (PF) Member of Parliament for Rushinga in Mashonaland Central province, wrested control of the vehicle immediately after the fleet was dispatched to his ministry.

“He took the vehicle to Rushinga where it was kept under the custody of a private driver and used to run political errands. This benefited Rushinga constituency and Dokora as the MP, not the schools that are supposed to be the beneficiaries,” said one of the sources.

The donated fleet included a Toyota Prado, a Toyota Landcruiser, a Toyota Corolla and three NP300 trucks. The Prado is reportedly being used by the ministry’s principal director, Rodgers Sisimayi, while the all-terrain Landcruiser is running errands as a pool car under the SIG programme.

The cars are also supposed to be used in a separate but related programme, the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is meant to manage information for the betterment of service delivery in primary and secondary schools.

Dokora’s deputy, Larry Mavhima, is said to have personal control of one of the NP300 trucks and the remaining one is also a pool car, together with the Corolla.

The minister’s driver, said the sources, was waylaid by armed robbers in Rushinga two Thursdays ago. They ordered him out of the car and sped away. The car, with no number plates attached, was then reportedly used to carry out a spate of robberies in and outside the constituency.

The robbers got wind that police were tracking them and fled to Mashonaland Central where, in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence, they burnt the car.

“The engine house was burnt but the fire did not extend to rest of the car. So far, no headway has been made to arrest the robbers even though the driver (whose name could not be established) is helping with investigations,” said a source.

The ministry has now retrieved the truck, which was towed to the Education Service Centre located at the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) premises in Mount Pleasant, Harare.

The Zimbabwean visited the premises where guards confirmed the vehicle had arrived a few days before and found the charred truck wrapped in a tent, apparently to evade public notice.

Dokora is said to have barred staff working under SIG—some of whom are civil servants—from drawing full-time salaries under the initiative, even though a budget was approved for their remuneration and other project allowances.

The project currently employs more than 15 people, among them data capturers, monitoring and evaluation officers, coordinators, an accountant and an IT officer.

Spirited attempts to get Dokora’s comments for more than two weeks were fruitless. A request for an interview was referred this publication to his public relations officer, one Zumbo, who promised to arrange a meeting with the minister but thereafter did not answer his phone.

Dokora has angered school teachers for radical changes he introduced after being sworn in as a cabinet minister late last year, among them banning cash incentives that they were receiving to offset low salaries.

Police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, and her subordinate, Paul Nyathi were not answering their phones.

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