New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: MDCs - Salary Scam a Con, Mugabe Knew

THE opposition MDC parties have dismissed the current hoopla over super executive pay at struggling State enterprises as a deliberate con, adding President Robert Mugabe was aware of the alleged looting.

The scandal has so far seen the sacking of CEOs at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the government-owned health insurer PSMAS while Harare's town clerk was suspended only to be surprisingly rescued Zanu PF's local government minister Ignatius Chombo.

ZBC's Happyson Muchechetere was said to be earn $40,000 each month while ordinary workers at the insolvent broadcaster went for close to seven months without pay.

At PSMAS, Cuthbert Dube pocketed $230,000 a month even as the organisation struggled with huge debts and failed to pay service providers, forcing members, most of them civil servants, to pay upfront for healthcare.

However MDC officials have claimed that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party had long been aware of the salary rot in parastatals but blocked efforts to address the problem in the last coalition government.

Said MDC-T's Gorden Moyo, who was minister for state enterprises in the unity administration: "We raised these issues when they came out but nothing happened. They are known. The President (Mugabe) was aware.

"Line ministers were accomplices to the crimes so they could not prevail on the parastatal bosses."

Moyo told the weekly Standard newspaper that Zanu PF ministers passed off the huge pay packages with a wink after being bribed with houses as well as expensive Mercedes Benz vehicles and Toyota Landcruisers.

Presidential affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa however denied Mugabe was aware of the scale of the salaries.

"The President is a principled leader. I do not think he could have heard such cases of corruption and fail to act," Mutasa said.

Information minister Jonathan Moyo also said there would be no cover-up over the issue.

No cover-up ... Information minister Jonathan Moyo

"The national discourse on this issue that has become too public to be ignored should be based on and driven by facts which should be allowed to speak for themselves," Moyo said.

"Any witch-hunt, and any cover-up, will itself be corrupt and therefore not different from the bane of the crude salaries in question."

Moyo added that the rot extended beyond salaries to include corrupt procurement and pricing procedures.

"In other words, we have obscene salaries, crooked allowances, fraudulent procurement procedures and distorted prices," he said.

"This syndrome of quadruple corruption, which has become the ugly face of dollarisation, must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner in accordance with the due process of the law.

"It cannot be swept under the carpet without systematic resolution because it has very dire consequences on the national economy, particularly on the welfare and well-being of ordinary people whose livelihoods are facing grave risks because parastatals and local authorities are required in terms of the law to provide front line goods and services to the ordinary people."

But the MDC's Matabeleland South chairperson Pilate Ndebele said previous corruption scandals showed that Zanu PF never followed up threats to prosecute those accused.

"All the claims that these people are being investigated by the government are a lie. This is not the first time we've had people linked to Zanu PF facing such allegations," Ndebele told the Bulawayo-based Southern Eye newspaper.

"We had the late Kumbirai Kangai, who allegedly swindled the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) of more than Z$200 million in a maize deal; there was the late Enos Chikowore who also allegedly swindled the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) and Christopher Kuruneri who was also accused of abusing State funds.

"But what happened to their cases? Nothing was done except for some noise just to fool us," he said.

"Do you think these people didn't know all along that such things were happening in parastatals? A parastatal is a government entity and there is no way government would not know how much it was paying parastatal executives," he added.

"These people must have been giving some money to Zanu PF because they would have been in jail right now had they not been linked to the party.

"We were forced to pay radio licences by ZBC, but at the end of the day only Zanu PF had more airplay during the campaign period.

"Muchechetere was working for Zanu PF and they knew what was happening. Do you think they can lock him up even if it's true that he misused ZBC funds?"

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