Robert Mugabe’s Corruption 1980-2014

Editor’s note: In this article Ken Yamamoto, a researcher on Africa at a Tokyo Institute, questions President Robert Mugabe’s sincerity in dealing with the country’s corruption scourge. Yamamoto cites several historic scandals where little or no action was taken while those implicated were rewarded with top government posts. He suggests that Mugabe cannot be serious about fighting corruption while retaining in his cabinet ministers such as Obert Mpofu and Ignatius Chombo.

President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe

Yamamoto also cites several dodgy deals involving the First Lady, former RBZ Governor Gideon Gono as well as Gushungo Holdings which is owned by the Mugabes. He suggests that the reason the fight against corruption will not succeed is because the head of this mafia or yakuza-like operation sits in the highest office in the land. Readers are advised that the article is fairly long, but we decided to use it in full because it raises pertinent questions about the problem of corruption in Zimbabwe.

NEKO no kubi ni suzu o tsukeru is a Japanese proverb which literally means “putting a bell around a cat’s neck”. This means expecting or talking about something that is nearly impossible to do. Many Zimbabweans have of late mistakenly believed that President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are now serious about fighting corruption. This belief is premised on no grounds at all other than, first, the natural desire to see the mess cleaned by the nanogenarian, and, second, the hope that after presiding for many years over a corrupt regime, Mugabe, may, after all be fed up of being in charge of a kleptocracy, and third and finally, the supposed linking by the thieves themselves of the wish list that is called ZIMASSET and its lofty ideals vis-à-vis corruption which is a hindrance to the supposed attainment of the economic plan’s objectives.

If anybody hopes that there will be a major crackdown on corruption in Zimbabwe, they had better scale their hopes down, because it is just not going to happen. And there are many reasons for concluding so.
Check the history!

Zimbabwe did not start decaying today. As a matter of fact, the decay of emerging economies that were once well-run happens over many years, and mainly happens gradually, well under the threshold of the average person’s consciousness. The decay tends to happen is small dozes over time. Zimbabwe’s decay and collapse of its moral fibre started way back in the 80’s and was allowed to slowly eat away the society’s fabric over decades. Many signs of this decay require carefully piecing them together, and if you are engrossed in them, you can hardly notice. It took me a long period of study of official documents and several visits to Zimbabwe to arrive at this empirical conclusion.

Looking at Mugabe’s leadership and history, he allowed his party to grandstand by adopting the leadership code in August 1984. At that time, the independence euphoria and the ruling class’ dying connection to the ideals of liberation struggle from the colonists was diminishing but still existent. This code did not survive beyond a few years. Mugabe and his lieutenants soon shredded it, engaging into all sorts of businesses. One very important trait among the ruling class in Zanu PF is that they all do not have strong competencies in running businesses, which led all of them to leverage on the national institutions to sustain these side-operations and opulent lifestyles, in the process pillaging the national fiscus.

The centre failed to hold right from independence and since then, the scandals have been popping out of the bottle one after another. To name but a few, these include the Paweni scandal (1982), National Railways Housing Scandal (1986), Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal worth $100 million (1987), Zisco Steel blast Furnace Scandal (1987), Willowgate Scandal (1988), ZRP Santana Scandal (1989), War Victims Compensation Scandal (1994), GMB Grain Scandal (1995), VIP Housing Scandal (1996), Boka Banking Scandal (1998), ZESA YTL Soltran Scandal (1998), – Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal (1998), Housing Loan Scandal (1999), Noczim Scandal (1999), – DRC timber and diamond UN reported scandals (1999), GMB Scandal (1999), – Ministry of water and rural development Chinese tender scandal (1999), Harare Airport Scandal (2001), pillaging and milking of Ziscosteel (2005-8), pillaging of diamonds in Chiadzwa (2006-present), the Airport Road Scandal (2008-2014), the perpetual milking of Zimbabwe and the pillaging of the central bank under Gideon Gono . The catch here is, these scandals that stink to high heavens only became such simply because they slipped into the public domain. You can imagine the high level corruption that does not slip into the public domain and takes place under the public radar.

The rate of corruption and scandals has increased significantly after independence turning into a precarious and evil spiral that has supped the energy out of this small southern African state, worsening from the early 90s and spiralling out of control this turn of the millennium. Corruption of an opportunistic and greedy nature bloomed from 1980 to about 1988. From that period to around 1999, there was a sudden surge and growth of a political mafia elite that extensively fuelled network-type corruption. After that period, the type of corruption morphed into a patronage form which was severely backed by politicians. Today, under Mugabe’s leadership, corruption has permeated Zimbabwe’s moral fabric like a cancer, to an extent that Zimbabwe fast rivals Nigeria with police collecting bribes like toll fees at roadblocks.

Mugabe leads the mafia

The Italian Mafia is quite influential, and so was the Japanese yakuza. Such criminal bands are led by a godfather. The only difference between Zanu PF and the mafia or the yakuza is that the latter are illicit organisations operating on the fringes of the formal system. However, in Zimbabwe, Mugabe actually leads a looting mafia which has presided over the country’s decline year after year, decade after decade, churning out corruption scandal after another. He is the godfather of the looting clan. Zimbabwe is a sad and typical case where a mafia mobster runs the government led by a godfather wearing the official robes of a State president.

Almost every corruption scandal in Zimbabwe invariably involves a major politician, and the politicians protect their fronts from persecution. No politician associated with any of the major corruption scandals has ever been prosecuted. In the extreme cases, it’s the weak small fish that get slapped at the knuckles while the big fish walk away scot free. In The Paweni scandal, the late Kumbirai Kangai, who authorised payment of fake invoices was never sanctioned, while Paweni was jailed. Kangai remained a cabinet minister for decades after the scandal and went on to preside over the Ministry of Agriculture years later, further engaging in subsequent pillaging of the GMB from which the parastatal has never recovered to date. Nothing happened to Kangai and he died a ‘respected’ senator.

It would take a whole book to look at each and every corruption scandal. But a few would emphasize that Mugabe actually leads, rewards and consorts with the thieves in government. Ministers that were dismissed from government by Mugabe over the Willowgate scandal are today at the top of the system in Zimbabwe. Fredrick Shava is today addressed as “His Excellency”, walking the diplomatic corridors as Ambassador of Zimbabwe in China. This appointment is done by Mugabe himself. Jacob Mudenda, a proven crook during the Willowgate scandal who, as governor of a Mateleland province, illegally sold Scania trucks at exorbitant prizes to a Zanu PF-linked company – Tregers, is today the Speaker of Parliament in Zimbabwe, effectively addressed as ‘Mr Speaker, Sir”. True to his old ways, he has recently been accused of trying to stifle debate on corruption in Parliament.

Proven Willowgate crook now Speaker of Parliament … Jacob Mudenda

Ziscosteel, once the largest integrated steelworks in Africa north of the Limpopo was sucked dry by Zanu PF vampires. Today , it’s a pale shadow of its former self, and has been sold off to an Indian company, Essar. Investigations done by National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) in 2009 revealed that Mugabe’s ministers such as Samuel Mumbengegwi, Olivia Muchena, Sithembiso Nyoni, Joice Mujuru, the late Stan Mudenge and Patrick Chinamasa all inappropriately and corruptly took payments from Ziscosteel.

Obert Mpofu, then Minister of Industry, was impeached by Parliamentarians in 2009 for admitting that Ziscosteel had been looted and milked out by senior government officials and latter prevaricating on that position. Mpofu had appeared before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade that was investigating the collapse of a $400 million deal to capitalise Ziscosteel by Global Steel Holdings.

While Mpofu was giving evidence at the parliamentary committee hearing on September 20 2009, a clerk appeared and delivered an urgent message to committee chairman Enock Porusingazi that Mpofu was wanted straight away by Vice President Joice Mujuru. Mpofu immediately left the hearing and went to meet Mujuru who told him to shut up. By the time he came back, he was denying that he knew anything about the looting frenzy at the steel company. He was fined $40,000. After his stint in the ministry, Mpofu was moved to preside over the Mining Ministry after which he became fabulously wealthy, and now owns a bank among other assets.

Joice Mujuru recently exposed herself as a corrupt mafioso when she was recorded at a party meeting saying the recent exposures of corruption were “the work of subversive elements trying to destroy Zanu PF and its government from within”. Mujuru is a heartbeat away from the Presidency of Zimbabwe. She actually acts as the president of Zimbabwe in Mugabe’s absence. If Mugabe was not himself corrupt, Mujuru should have resigned soon after making those utterances or get fired by Mugabe, but today the two preside at the apex of power in Zimbabwe.

Mujuru has bungled throughout her career as a minister. Zimbabweans may recall that she was the Minister who worked overtime to prevent Strive Masiyiwa from setting up Econet, a company that’s arguably Zimbabwe’s largest direct and indirect employer today. She also looted the War Victims Compensation Fund claiming to be 55% disabled and collected a cool Z$389 472, which was a handsome amount back then.

In 2009, Firstar Europe reported that Mujuru tried to sell them $90 million worth of gold, which had a purported origin of the DRC. She tried to sell the gold, according to British media via her son-in-law who is Spanish. Mujuru’s daughter, Nyasha is married to a Spanish man called Del Campo. The Vice President of Zimbabwe is reported to have threatened Firstar with consequences if they did not reverse their decision to refuse buying the gold.

During the looting frenzy of diamonds from the Chiadzwa area, Mujuru and her late husband were prominent names, illegally collecting diamonds en-masse from the area. She had her own claim famously referred to as “chitutu chaMai Mujuru”. So did Grace Mugabe, the President’s wife.

Webster Shamu on the other hand is Mugabe’s party’s political commissar, an equivalent of a chief mobiliser of the party. Shamu, formerly known as Charles Ndlovu, has long had mafia-style crooked streak his entire life. Shamu left the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation for Mozambique before Zimbabwe’s independence to avoid paying debts he owed. He achieved notoriety in the 80s when he allegedly embezzled over Z$50,000 from the Central Film Laboratories that he headed.

A 1987 US embassy cable described him, when he was appointed a deputy minister of youth sport and culture by Mugabe in 1987 just after the unity accord, as; “Charles Ndlovu… is new to the cabinet and takes over this position from Amos Midzi who is no longer in government. Ndlovu, … was once a disc jockey with the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corp. He left for Maputo in the mid-1970’s where he became a broadcaster on “the Voice of Zimbabwe”. In the early 1980’s, he was named head of production services in the Ministry of Information, and in 1985 he became head of the parastatal Central Film Laboratories. … Ndlovu is considered a party hack with fairly close ties to Mugabe… he was moved from the Ministry of Information to Central Film Labs in 1985 after a scandal in which an alleged Z$50,000 was embezzled from the department of production services through a false payroll scheme. The department’s accountant committed suicide, but Ndlovu… was saved, probably through his ties with Mugabe. Though married, Ndlovu is well known as a womanizer and heavy drinker”.

Shamu, in 1985 had been involved in pillaging the Central Film Laboratories of a lot of money via a false payroll. In other words, he had ghost workers on the payroll. Mugabe rewarded him a couple of years later by appointing him as a deputy minister a year before the Willowgate theft went into full gear. Now, is it any wonder that Shamu recently presided as Minister over the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which had several ghost workers including his wife Constance, who earned herself a cool US$11,000 a month without going to work? If corrupt behaviour is rewarded with powerful appointments, then there is no incentive for the Mafioso not to be corrupt. There is always a good reward for being the ‘baddest’ guy in the mafia and yakuza!

Mugabe is the Godfather

The Japanese saying ‘Atama kara sakana no fuhai’ means a fish rots from the head. Controversial businessman Nick Van Hoogstraten once claimed that Mugabe is incorruptible. That’s an outlandish claim from an ex-convict looking for a home after his troubles in the UK. The reason Mugabe will not arrest anyone for corruption is because he is very corrupt and is the biggest beneficiary of the vice.
The first official confirmation of Mugabe’s fingers in the corruption jar came out in a 1992 report published by the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Then, senators John Kerry and Hank Brown led thorough investigations into the operations of the large Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). BCCI was an elaborate criminal corporate spider-web set up and led by sleek Pakistani banker named Agha Hasan Abedi, with significant funding from the ruler of Abu Dhabi and then President and founder of United Arab Emirates – Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed al Nahyan.
In the 1992 report, entitled “The BCCI Affair: A Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate” , BCCI would make direct payments to key officials, sometimes in suitcases filled with cash. Nazir Chinoy, a BCCI official told the committee that Abedi paid both Robert Mugabe who was then the Prime Minister, to fast track setting up the joint venture that became BCCI in Zimbabwe. He also paid Joshua Nkomo who was Mugabe’s opposing number across the Zimbabwean political aisle. Chinoy argued that there is no way a foreign bank would have set up in Zimbabwe the way BCCI did without paying the Prime Minister ‘given the opposition of the British banks who were already established there’ .The same report notes that BCCI’s Third World Foundation invited Mugabe in 1988 to present an award to Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Norweigian Prime Minister, because Mugabe routinely received cash payments from the bank.

To the uninitiated, BCCI is the predecessor of present day CBZ Bank from which the previous central bank governor, Gideon Gono, and the just appointed central bank governor John Mangudya hailed. Readers may also not be aware that BCCI was very much at the centre of the Willowgate scandal. BCCI manager Ashrat Aktar issued the bank certified cheques to employees of Naran, a sleazy businessman, who was acting in cahoots with Calistus Ndlovu, then Minister of Industry and Technology. It was a refund from one of these cheques that was misdirected to Obert Mpofu, leading to a public spill of the corruption scandal.

The above evidence shows that Mugabe has always been at the core of corruption and bribery well from the time Zimbabwe got independent. And indeed it continued to do the rounds in his house. In 1995, a multi-million dollar National Housing Fund was set-up to build houses for middle income families. Houses were supposed to cost an average of Z$200,000. Middle income groups were supposed to contribute half while the government put forward another half to be paid back over time.
Instead of the targeted beneficiaries, the fund was hijacked and looted via a VIP housing scheme by greedy individuals, chief of whom was none other than Mugabe’s young wife, Grace. She build herself a Z$5,89 million mansion, later dubbed the Gracelands, which if properly used could have built middle-income house for twenty-nine families. She never lived in the house. She spun it off for a handsome profit to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi through the Libyan Embassy in Harare.
Justice George Smith at the High Court in 1997 recommended that the looting of the fund be investigated and the culprits be brought to book. But Mugabe and his wife were million-dollar beneficiaries of the theft and there is no way they could have investigated themselves. Because, the godfather was looting, the Mafioso also did and no one could police the police. Augustine Chihuri also looted from this fund and built himself a $1,1 million house. So did high court judge Paddington Garwe.

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 tender board was awarded the tender, not by the tender board, but by Mugabe’s cabinet. The firm had links to Leo Mugabe, the President’s nephew as well as Zanu PF’s company, ZIDCO Holdings. Hani Yamani, a Saudi national, was to later rue the project as he complained bitterly to Mugabe after being asked to pay excessive kickbacks. He was further asked to fund the construction of Mugabe’s “Blue Roof” mansion in Borrowdale in addition to making payments to senior cabinet ministers and ‘donating’ $50,000 to Mugabe’s Party Zanu PF (read protection fees).

Demanding Gideon Gono probe over RBZ looting … Munyaradzi Kereke

Munyaradzi Kereke, a former advisor to the central bank governor has launched a lawsuit with the recently constituted Constitutional Court. In spite of his flaws, he must be applauded for being an active citizen.

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