HARARE – A group of Zanu PF officials in Manicaland face arrest this week over the alleged theft of 36 beasts worth thousands of dollars which were donated to President Robert Mugabe’s birthday bash in Mutare last year.
The development also comes as key members of Mike Madiro’s provincial executive remain in the line of fire over the alleged plunder of nearly $1 million in diamond money given to the party for its December conference.
With the octogenarian leader’s all-powerful politburo giving the green light for police involvement into the second matter, senior police officers have been dispatched to the eastern border town to wrap up the probe and possibly make arrests, impeccable sources told the Daily News yesterday.
However, national police spokesperson Charity Charamba said she was yet to be briefed on the matters. “I have not yet received a briefing from those handling the case,” she said.
With a probe team from the party’s Manicaland branch exonerating Madiro and company, the Daily News has learnt that investigations have not only intensified, but the matter is so sensitive that top cops from Harare are handling the diamond cash loot.
Apart from the provincial chair, others under the cloud include ousted youth chair Tawanda Mukodza, provincial youth secretary for security Admire Mahachi and Clever Muparutsa.
While the quartet might have survived the first scalpel on the strength of affidavits deposed by diamond mine company executives to the effect that no money ever exchanged hands, the group has remained under the spotlight after a disbelieving Mugabe’s personal involvement and the cash-theft charges had been discussed at one of the party’s recent politburo meetings.
At the weekend, police sources said Madiro and his team could have more charges levelled against them after revelations that they did not declare the 30-plus beasts sourced for Mugabe’s 88th birthday celebrations in Mutare last year.
“There are indications that they helped themselves with beasts sourced from party supporters, which were supposed to have been used during the birthday celebrations of the president,” said the source.
News of the diamond cash abuse and livestock plunder comes as five trucks of “chicken”, and other goodies – imported in Mugabe and Zanu PF’s name – were allegedly seized at Beitbridge in December. Efforts to elicit comment from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority on this matter have proved fruitless.
However, basic charges against Madiro and team are that they received $750 000-plus from Chiadzwa diamond mining companies in the party’s name, but it simply disappeared.
In the circumstances, investigators are also interested in the rags-to-riches story or lifestyle of some of the group members, as one of the top officials implicated in the scam is allegedly building a 36-roomed mansion in Harare’s Mount Pleasant suburb, while others now own a fleet of top of the range vehicles.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Madiro flatly refused to give his side of the story and accused this paper of driving a vendetta or campaign against him.
“What do you want from me? You people from the Daily News are against me. Why don’t you go and ask the police, don’t call me again,” a fuming Madiro said before hanging up. But according to our sources, investigators quizzed some of the accused officials at Mutare Central Police Station last week.
Those interviewed, include Zanu PF secretary for production and labour in Manicaland John Chirimambowa on how over 10 beasts were kept at his farm instead of being submitted to the party for feasting at Mugabe’s birthday do.
Police sources told the Daily News that some of the beasts were shared among the top leadership in the province while cash disappeared. According to the same sources, investigators also interviewed officials from the mining firms, which donated the cash.
Sources said the group allegedly claimed that the money was to bankroll party activities, including funding the Gweru conference. Instead of delivering the money to the party, the officials converted it to their personal use.
The matter came to light after Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF secretary for administration confided in deputy Commissioner-General Levi Sibanda who in turn alerted vice president Joice Mujuru.
The matter was later forwarded to Mugabe, who instructed state agents to probe the case at the same time his party was leading a separate investigation.