LOCAL government minister, Ignatius Chombo, has attributed his reputed riches to being a "successful farmer" and challenged critics to prove claims he is one of the country's most corrupt public officials.
"I am a successful commercial farmer thanks to the land reform programme and I survive on the sales I do on the farm," Chombo said in an interview with the Sunday Mail.
"I will challenge anyone with evidence of corruption or any wrongdoing on my part to come forward. Kana chipikiri chemunhu handina kumbotora (I have never stolen from anyone, not even a nail)."
Chombo has been a target of graft allegations by the opposition with MDC-T leader and Morgan Tsvangirai claiming, in a recent television interview, that his Zanu PF party had blocked the anti-corruption commission from investigation the former university lecturer.
But Chombo said the allegations were baseless and part of a campaign to tarnish is image.
"It is true that elements within MDC-T supported by the hostile foreign-funded media came up with these malicious, unfounded and politically motivated accusations against me; they did so to damage my reputation," he said.
"However, all the allegations they paid reporters to publish were unfounded and could not be substantiated."
The Zanu PF politburo member raised eyebrows when his alleged riches were made public during a bitter divorce fight with ex-wife, Marian Mhloyi, who also unsuccessfully challenged him in the July elections.
Chombo however, said Marian, who insisted the Zvimba North legislator had hidden most of the matrimonial property from her, deliberately inflated her claim in order to embarrass him.
Under a divorce decree handed down by the High Court, Marian was awarded most of the couple's property including six haulage trucks and trailers, an AVM bus, an 18-tonne truck, a tanker, four cars and eight immovable properties.
Chombo, in addition to being liable for the couple's debts, retained ownership of flats at Eastview Gardens in Harare, an immovable property in Norton, a stand in Kariba, and all the properties at Allan Grange Farm in Raffingora.
The minister has regularly infuriated the MDC-T by allegedly protecting officials accused of defying the party leadership and those sacked over allegations of corruption in local authorities it controls.
In his defence, Chombo said: "The MDC councillors who are illegally being accused of having voted for Zanu PF cannot be dismissed from council for anything other than dishonesty involving council . . . the law is very clear," he said.
"Refusing to obey (Morgan) Tsvangirai's instructions that you must vote for so and so when you go into chamber is not an offence that calls for the firing of a mayor.
"The problem is they went to the Press to complain that I am not dismissing councillors whom they found guilty of corruption. I wrote to them asking them to tell me what it is exactly these councillors did.
"They did not even write a single letter to me up to today. I cannot act when I am not given information. They are good at talking in the Press. Let them show you the letters that they have written to us."