By Xolisani Ncube and Richard Chidza | NewsDay |
President Robert Mugabe reportedly blocked the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) from causing the arrest of Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo on alleged fraud charges involving over half a million dollars.
Moyo is alleged to have siphoned the money from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) to bankroll First Lady Grace Mugabe’s rallies and the Zanu PF youth league’s million-man march.
He is also alleged to have used some of the money for campaign purposes in his Tsholotsho North constituency early this year.
Zanu PF sources told NewsDay that Zacc investigators planned to swoop on Moyo while Mugabe was out of the country in Lesotho this week, but failed after the Tsholotsho North MP reportedly roped in then Acting President Phelekezela Mphoko to block the arrest.
Sources within the ruling party yesterday said Mphoko raised the issue during Wednesday’s Zanu PF politburo meeting, where Mugabe reportedly demanded to know who had sanctioned the arrest without briefing him.
“After the VP (Mphoko) raised the matter, the President asked Moyo to explain his case. The President then said: ‘Should we be embarrassing ourselves like this? Can’t he (Moyo) just go and clarify issues with the commission without them arresting him?’” a source, who declined to be named, said.
“He (Mugabe) was also very disturbed to hear that the commissioners were preparing to nab the minister soon after the politburo meeting.
“The problem is that there is a feeling shared by the President that the commission is being used by a certain faction within Zanu PF, hence, it has since been moved from the Home Affairs ministry to the Office of the President.”
Although Zanu PF secretary for administration and stand-in spokesperson Ignatius Chombo denied that Mugabe or the politburo ever discussed Moyo’s blocked arrest, politburo sources insisted that the issue was discussed.
“It is not true,” Chombo, who is also Home Affairs minister, said in a terse response when contacted for comment.
According to insiders, Zacc investigators wanted to question Moyo on allegations that he abused his office to defraud Zimdef, among other accusations.
“While they might be issues over the manner in which the Zimdef money was handled, factional politics is at play. In his brief explanation to the politburo over the matter, Moyo said some of the funds alleged to have been misappropriated were used to fund the youth league’s million-man march,” another insider said.
According to insiders, some of the allegations against Moyo emanated from the ongoing trial of Zimdef chief executive officer Fredrick Mandizvidza, who allegedly used the minister’s name to defraud the State-owned parastatal of more than $95 800.
Moyo could not be reached for comment yesterday as his mobile phone went unanswered, while text messages sent to him were not responded to.
However, on his Twitter account, Moyo claimed that “factionalists, successionists (sic) and tribalists think they can get away with corrupting and abusing institutions and due process”, implying there had been a “tribal capture of State institutions”.
Zacc insiders confirmed that they had prepared dockets relating to charges of abuse of office, money-laundering and fraud against Moyo, the minister’s personal assistant and his deputy, Godfrey Gandawa. The deputy minister yesterday declined to comment on the issue, saying: “I am on my way from Bulawayo and I cannot comment at the moment,” he said.
Zacc spokesperson Phyllis Chikundura professed ignorance over the issue.
“I am not aware of that. I only know the case already before the courts involving the CEO. If I get anything, I will advise you,” she said.
But Zacc sources maintained: “As far as we are concerned, there has not been communication from the country’s leadership to stop either the investigation or the pending arrest. Investigators have been to Moyo’s house and office, but he was not there.
“If anything, the investigation is over and watertight dockets have been prepared. This was a very thorough investigation that took the better part of four months. The (Zacc) chairman (Job Whabira) has indicated there is no stopping.
“He (Moyo) bought bicycles for chiefs and ordinary people in Tsholotsho that he distributed this year. There are statements from officials from the district administrator’s office, as well as other people including the owners of the shop from which he bought.
“They are now trying to hide behind the veneer of having used the money to fund the Zanu PF million-man march. Even then, it would have been abuse of office and fraud,” said the impeccable source. Zimdef is believed to have been looted by successive senior government officials.
Internal correspondence seen by NewsDay shows that Moyo’s predecessor, Oppah Muchinguri, in 2010 wrote to the National Manpower Advisory Council chairperson, identified as W Bare, requesting that its audit committee conduct an audit of the fund in terms of the law.
Among others, the terms of reference as requested by Muchinguri included to “probe into financial disbursements from Zimdef to [the] ministry, payment of civil servants using the fund without authority from the Civil Service Commission, as well as acquittals and accountability mechanisms”.
“The committee noted that Zimdef received significant funds from industry despite the current economic hardships,” the audit, carried out between January and February 2011, established in its executive summary.
“The disturbing development noted in this audit was the proliferation of transactions in nature and number, that were outside the Zimdef mandate, which the permanent secretary directly or, through his orders and ministry departments, requested and instructed Zimdef to fund from its cash resources.”