20 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Mupfumira in Trouble

President Robert Mugabe last week further threw sacked Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira under the bus after accusing her of corruption and abuse of funds at the ministry she headed.

Mupfumira lost her job after Mugabe's cabinet reshuffle last week along with three other ministers. Although many thought her removal was solely part of Mugabe's succession matrix and agenda, the veteran leader told her after she had made an emotional explanation that she was not aligned to any of the two rival Zanu PF factions that she was removed for abuse of funds at her ministry.

"In last wek's Zanu PF politburo meeting, Mupfumira complained that she has never been 'Queen Lacoste' as many have been calling her or a G-40 ally. She said she is not part and parcel of factionalism," a politburo source said.

"After her emotional outburst, Mugabe made it clear that she had not been removed for factional politics, but for abuse of funds at her ministry. She was an emotional wreck after that and even her opponents like Jonathan Moyo approached her as they were leaving the meeting to empathise with her as a human being and colleague. Moyo told her that he was affected by her emotional outpouring and felt pity for her from the bottom of his heart even if he could not get involved in what the president had said.

"After that the two further communicated and made peace with each other, although Moyo made it clear that he took responsibility for his video-documentary material presented to the politburo on July 19 and her being collateral damage in the process."

Zanu PF has two factions, one around Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other around First Lady Grace Mugabe.

Sources told this paper that there is talk of investigating Mupfumira to scrutinise all her ministry financial affairs and see if she could have used her power to pressure the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) to fund her personal and political projects as alleged in some circles.

"After what the president said, there is likely going to be an investigation at her ministry which is now under (newly appointed Labour minister) Patrick Zhuwao to see if she might have influenced abuse of ministry and Nssa funds," one official said.

"That issue will not go away until a forensic audit has been carried out and the matter settled."

However, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) said yesterday it had not yet received any report to investigate Mupfumira.

"As far as we are concerned, we have not heard of any allegations against Mupfumira and we are not investigating any matter involving her," said Zacc investigations committee chair Goodson Nguni in a telephone interview.

Nssa board chair Robin Vela, in written responses, said: "I am not aware of any investigation taking place or any funds being siphoned from Nssa since the appointment of my board by anyone, let alone the former minister."

Zhuwao said he was yet to understand his mandate.

"I am still in the process of understanding the mandate of the ministry and move forward for the benefit of Zimbabweans," Zhuwao said.

Mupfumira was appointed minister in 2014, replacing Nicholas Goche and she was also elevated to the Zanu PF politburo the same year.

She was once one of Mugabe's favourites as she was close to his wife Grace. According to those close to Mupfumira, she used to supply cakes to the First Family and was one of those loyal to Mugabe until she started hobnobbing with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa's faction fighting Grace and her allies.

Mupfumira has a corporate background and was once managing director of Victoria Foods (Pvt) Ltd and group communications director of CFI Holdings. She also previously worked at Unilever (then known as Lever Brothers) for 15 years and is also former chairperson of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe

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