Harare - Directors across Zimbabwe's
public sector are allegedly on the take, receiving huge salaries while
most Zimbabweans struggle to get by. Each week brings scandalous
revelations in the government-owned newspaper.
Exhibit A is the case of Cuthbert Dube, the former
chief executive of Premier Service Medical Aid Society, an insurance
company that covers nearly 1 million civil servants and their families.
According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Dube - dubbed "Cashbert"
by detractors - was getting a monthly salary of $230 000 along with
another $220 000 in allowances, even as the company failed to pay its
How high up the chain will President Robert Mugabe, who
turns 90 this month, clean house?
Sceptics think he seeks to blame
scapegoats like Dube for the dire state of the Zimbabwean economy. Any
attempt at wholesale scrutiny, they say, would undermine a shrewd leader
who has been in power since independence in 1980, often cracking down
on dissent and surviving economic chaos that led Zimbabwe to replace its
currency with the US dollar in 2009.
But Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe's minister of information,
media and broadcasting services, said the campaign against corruption is
for real. He recently suspended Happison Muchechetere, the CEO of the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation who reportedly led an opulent lifestyle and
has been implicated in scams while rank-and-file employees faced layoffs
because of funding shortages.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday,
Moyo said politicians would face a backlash if they do not dismantle a
"rampant" culture of corruption in which managers connived with board
chairpeople, as well as suppliers and other private partners.
"The public is demanding very swift, strong action, including prosecutions," Moyo said.
Last year, Transparency International ranked Zimbabwe
at 157 out of 175 countries and territories on a scale rating
perceptions of public sector corruption. The government itself is
leading calls for reform. Top aides to Mugabe promise audits and, if
necessary, prosecutions of greedy managers, many of whom got where they
are because of political connections.
State media published reports that even municipal
directors in the capital, Harare, received monthly salaries of up to
$40 000 in a city with potholed roads, poor street lighting, water
shortages and uncollected garbage. Top managers at the troubled national
carrier, Air Zimbabwe, are alleged to have swindled close to $11m in an insurance scam, raising concerns that planes were flying
without valid insurance. The airline's acting managing director, Grace
Pfumbidzayi, is a niece of the transport secretary in Mugabe's
"It is simply more than selfish," Tapfuma K Manzira
wrote in a letter published in The Herald, referring to bosses' high
salaries at government-linked firms. "It borders on socio-economic
On Tuesday, The Herald, citing unidentified "insider"
sources, reported that top managers at the state-owned diamond mining
company, Marange Resources, had looted millions of dollars by inflating
prices on receipts for purchased equipment.
Last year, Mugabe accused a top mining official and
ruling party loyalist, Goodwills Masimirembwa, of accepting a $6m
bribe from Ghanaian investors to obtain diamond mining rights in
Marange diamond field. Investigations stalled because authorities said
no formal complaint was lodged against Masimirembwa, who denied
In the AP interview, Moyo said diamond-mining entities
had sought to hide malfeasance by claiming they had to operate
discreetly in order to avoid Western sanctions that were imposed on
government figures in Zimbabwe because of human rights concerns.
"They have the perfect excuse not to be under the spotlight," he said.
Big fish free
Moyo said an uneasy power-sharing deal that preceded
last year's election contributed to wrongdoing because boards of state
firms became "arenas for political balancing" in which Mugabe's Zanu-PF
party and its partner, the rival Movement for Democratic Change party,
divvied up spots, regardless of a candidate's skills.
However, Douglas Mwonzora, spokesperson for the Movement
for Democratic Change, which has reverted to its role as the main
opposition group, said most corrupt officials were appointed with
Mugabe's approval. He described the anti-corruption campaign as a public
"Why are they not targeting the big fish? The ministers, the military and police chiefs involved with diamonds?" Mwonzora said.
Dube, the chief target of public ire, has not commented
publicly since his forced retirement. The Herald quoted Zimbabwe's
chief tax official, Gershom Pasi, as saying it was difficult to collect
taxes from high earners such as Dube because their companies were
running parallel payrolls, including one for official scrutiny that
showed reasonable salaries and perks.
Moyo said the problem originated partly in the era of
hyperinflation. With the switch from the Zimbabwean dollar to the US
dollar, he said, state CEOs cooked the books.
"It was a creative replacement of dollar signs," Moyo
said. "While the majority [of civil servants was getting $100 a month,
regardless of your rank ... these CEOs were paying themselves $3 000 and
$5 000. Nobody did anything to check on them."