5 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Scale of Graft Shocks Mugabe

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has been shocked by the extent of asset-grabbing in Masvingo Province by heavyweights in his party following complaints raised by traditional chiefs in southern Zimbabwe who met him recently.

The ZANU-PF leader's meeting with three chiefs from Chiredzi highlights growing divisions in the party as members trade accusations and counter-accusations over graft, greed and favouritism.

Chiefs in Chiredzi are not happy with the handling of black economic empowerment initiatives in the area.

These include opportunities arising from the Tokwe Murkosi Dam construction project; the parcelling out of sugar estates and ranches; the issuance of leases at Save Conse-rvancy; and various other empowerment projects in the province.

Communities have been sidelined in the allocation of conservancies at Save Conservancy, with only a few ZANU-PF bigwigs benefiting. Parks and wildlife director, Vitalis Chadenga has been named as being on the list of those who benefited from the conservancies along with Stan Mudenge, Shuvai Mahofa, Josiah Hungwe, Alois Baloyi and Brigadier General Engelbert Rugeje, among others.

Interestingly, Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke and his son George each received a share of the Save Conservancy.

It is feared that the divisions playing out in Masvingo could have a negative effect on the party's performance in the next elections as the majority feel being used to enrich a few.

The scrambling for riches has left ZANU-PF ministers, Members of Parliament, chiefs and other senior army officers from the province at each other's throats, as an elite few continue to reach for the feeding trough.

The free for all situation forced Chief Gudo, Chief Tshovani and Chief Sengwe to arrange a meeting with President Mugabe to expose ZANU-PF bigwigs laying their hands on everything that is at stake.

Chief Gudo from Chiredzi said they met President Mugabe sometime this year, claiming the ZANU-PF leader was surprised that only a few were benefitting. "He (President Mugabe) directed that Vice President Joice Mujuru deal with the issue," he said.

He said multiple beneficiaries; some from outside Chiredzi or Masvingo Province, were accessing wealth in the name of indigenisation, while locals wallow in poverty.

For example, of the 827 people granted sugar cane plots only 24 were said to be from Chiredzi.

Denford Masiye, the chairperson of both the Lowveld Indigenous Business of Zimbabwe and the Chiredzi Rural Communities Development Initiative, a trust constituted by the three chiefs, said he attended the trio's meeting with the President and they were planning to meet him again because problems were escalating in the province.

"I was their spokesperson when we met the President. It was an exclusive meeting between the President and the three chiefs. We met him because problems were not being solved at provincial level by Governor Maluleke. We had also met the Lands Minister (Herbert Murerwa) but it was not helpful," he said.

"In that meeting, the better term to use is that the President was shocked about what is happening. One of the things that surprised him was that three chiefs from outside Chiredzi were granted sugarcane plots, but local chiefs were not allocated anything."

Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, could not be reached immediately for comment yesterday.

Differences have emerged between Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi and Local Government, Public Works Minister Ignatius Chombo, who could not be reached for comment, over the handling of the Tokwe Murkosi project.

Mzembi has also differed sharply with Environment Minister Francis Nhema over the issuance of hunting leases to senior ZANU-PF members.

ZANU-PF bigwigs involved in the deals have dismissed allegations of improper conduct saying they were merely beneficiaries of the indigenisation and empowerment programme being spearheaded by their party.

Mzembi admitted this week that there was a "political ping pong approach" to opportunities emerging from the Tokwe Murkosi project, adding that he was aware of politicians waiting in the wings to pounce on opportunities ahead of communities.

"The community can carefully be drafted into a viable estate and plantation programme that would change their lives for the better forever if we avoid the current political ping pong approach. I am aware of pre-construction scavenging around potential opportunities from this project, but let the people in the area know that they can stop all that with the power reposed in them. What they need is focused, courageous, selfless leadership to take them to their promised Canaan," said Mzembi.

ZANU-PF has always been criticised over the manner it undertakes its empowerment projects as fat cats continue to benefit at the expense of the masses.

The manner it rolled out the land reform was also punctuated by multiple farm ownership by a handful of its members.

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