9 February 2014

Zimbabwe: 'Government Protects Thieves'

Photo: Nehanda Radio
PSMAS salaries.

PRESSURE is mounting on government to take action against parastatal bosses implicated in the hefty salary scandals and other corrupt deals, amid serious doubts over the state's sincerity in dealing with the graft.

Analysts and civil society groups said the nation was becoming impatient as people expected government to have started prosecuting several public officials linked to corruption and other fraudulent deals a long time ago.

They said the government, despite declaring its intention to combat corruption, had allowed it to flourish with those who were supposed to take action being the main culprits.

The groups said the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) which was expected to spearhead the current drive to root out graft, curiously remained dysfunctional after its term of office expired in August last year.

With Zaac in place, corruption flourished and officials looted companies in broad daylight. Former Public Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) chief executive officer, Cuthbert Dube was earning an astounding US$500 000 in salary and allowances.

Suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief executive officer, Happison Muchechetere was earning US$44 500 at a time workers went for seven months without pay at the insolvent company.

At the Harare City Council (HCC), Town Clerk, Tendai Mahachi and other top directors were reportedly earning monthly salaries of about US$37 000 each at a time the municipality was failing to pay its workers and provide essential services.

Mahachi was recently suspended by Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, after failing to provide the salary schedules for managers, but Local Government minister, Ignatious Chombo reversed the decision in a directive which has raised eyebrows.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) spokesperson, Mfundo Mlilo said Chombo's action proved that government was not serious about dealing with corruption and was instead protecting individuals from being investigated.

"There is clear evidence that some officials in government including very 'big men' are complicit in these corrupt deals," he said.

Mlilo said the government would not reconstitute Zacc because senior members were complicit in corrupt scandals.

The CiZC spokesperson said the issue of parastatals was not new as government was all along aware of the rot at the institutions.

"Now that elections are gone, they create this entire charade to divert the unassuming public from real issues of non-delivery by the government or the economy that is not perfuming and an evident collapse of social services," said Mlilo.

He said the cost of corruption was huge and may well need a forensic audit to establish the astronomic figures involved.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general, Japhet Moyo said the government had the duty to act swiftly but its hands were tied as some of its officials were part of the looting.

"It is high time the state responds as the nation is on its knees, not because of sanctions as some allege, but institutionalised greed and looting," he said.

Former Harare mayor, Elias Mudzuri said it was sad that it now appeared fashionable for officials to abuse public funds.

"We are rewarding theft. The rot should stop," he said.

Mudzuri said the hefty salaries that Mahachi and other directors were earning could be better used to buy refuse trucks and ambulances, or repair pothole ridden roads and provide water which is now a scarce commodity in the city.

He said top executives at the HCC were driving vehicles worth well over US$100 000 each and wondered where former Mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda was, when their hefty packages were approved. Masunda could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mudzuri said the new mayor, should not agree to be "bullied" by Chombo and should go ahead and fire Mahachi.

The Harare Residents' Trust (HRT) said revelations of corporate theft and looting of public resources has the blessings of senior government officials.

"These massive irregularities should not shock or surprise anyone but should actually make the citizens angry at being taken for granted by people who have been entrusted to run our public affairs," said HRT.

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