8 February 2014

Zimbabwe: We Must All Resign, Charamba

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, has offered to resign and called on cabinet ministers who presided over entities fingered in the Salary-gate scandal to be honourable and do the same.

This comes as Information Minister Jonathan Moyo revealed that Mugabe had been "dismayed" by revelations of the pay scandal and demanded that ministers act to stop the rot.

"President Mugabe, on Tuesday, directed all Cabinet ministers to take full responsibility of the affairs of their ministries and of the parastatals, State enterprises or local authorities under their supervision to ensure that the rot is brought to an end by holding those culpable to account and to protect public assets and funds," Moyo told a state-run weekly.

In an interview with a privately-owned radio station last week, Charamba said Mugabe's Cabinet lieutenants had slept on the wheel and should do the honourable thing and resign.

Zimbabweans, most unable to feed their families, have watched in shock and anger revelations of obscene salaries earned by executives at government institutions which are either insolvent or effectively comatose due to poor management.

"That's dereliction of duty on the part of ministries. We slept on the job. That's the bottom line. Whether we snoozed because we were sleepy or snoozed because we were ignorant, it makes no difference," Charamba said.

The most shocking revelations have related to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) which Charamba is effectively responsible for as Permanent Secretary of the Information Ministry.

Again, an even bigger sandal emerged at the government-run health insurer for civil servants PSMAS where the chief executive earned $230,000 while service providers were not paid and members had to pay cash upfront for health care.

Charamba is a board member at PSMAS and reportedly drew over $100,000 in board allowances last year alone.

"Zimbabweans are angry and have every reason to be angry. Take, for example, ZBC (Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation). That money which was supposed to have them entertained was being taken to sponsor large lives," he said.

"Those involved, including myself; should be made to pay. I should relinquish my position. If I am not moved by my conscience, I should be moved by a higher authority," Charamba told a local radio last week.

Charamba said the Information Ministry, under former Zanu PF minister Webster Shamu, knew of the rot at the ZBC but claimed they could not act as that would have weakened the party's prospects ahead of last year's elections.

He also said the Ministries of Mines, Health, and Transport, among others, have been rocked by salary scandals in parastatals under their supervision.

Opposition Mavambo leader Simba Makoni has called on Mugabe to show leadership and "say something" over the scandal while former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T party demanded a judicial inquiry into the scandal.

Moyo, meanwhile, said the government was taking the allegations seriously.

"The reported salaries and allowances are so shocking, obscene, corrupt and illegal that they require urgent and comprehensive policy response given their damaging impact on both the economy and our country's ethical fabric," he said.

"As such, the public is right not only to express its anger at those implicated in this corruption but also to expect and indeed demand visible and decisive Government action against the scourge.

"The bottom line, about which there should be neither doubt nor compromise in anyone's mind, is that public positions in Government, parastatals, State enterprises or local authorities are not self-enrichment schemes.

"It is now apparent that the informal and temporary dollarisation of our national currency system has given birth to a culture of devastating corruption through obscene salaries and allowances matched by fraudulent procurement resulting in distorted prices of goods and services in the economy.

"Government understands and is committed to ensure that the needful is urgently and comprehensively done to correct the egregious anomaly. The public deserves and must get better."

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