Last week I raised in this column concerns about the rather ridiculous assurances police chiefs sought to give Zimbabweans, that corruption by traffic police could be eradicated by the use of lie detectors and suggested the only way to stop the graft would be to get rid of spot fines.
The campaign was then vigorously pursued on various media platforms and eventually, last Thursday Kembo Mohadi, the police minister, gave Zimbabwe the much-needed lift to the spirit.Cabinet, he said, had deliberated at length over the issue and spot fines may finally go.
It is in the same spirit that Ignatius Chombo, instead of continually displaying sickening arrogance, swimming against the tide and literally telling Zimbabweans to go to hell, should feel for the long-suffering urban dwellers and rein in the so-called resuscitation teams that are behaving like bounty hunters at the local authorities where the minister sends them.
While the intent sounds legitimate and well meaning, Chombo’s graft busting escapades at local authorities all appear to turn into acts of plunder and a “jobs-for-the-boys” adventure.
If my memory serves me well, sometime early last year, the Local Government minister ordered the Harare City Council to pay $42 000 in fees to a team of investigators which he had commissioned to probe the alleged abuse of $600 by two councilors Warship Dumba and Casper Takura who had allegedly made false fuel claims.
Chombo has reportedly done the same severally; even without the teams providing evidence they had done some work.
In the case of Dumba and Takura, Harare Mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda said: “I don’t even know what they did to warrant a probe. All I hear is there is a team that we must pay $42 000 but we are yet to get a report on their findings.”
The two’s case later went to court and they were acquitted. Chombo insisted however they must leave Town House.
When, more recently, Chombo set up a team to investigate massive corruption at Chitungwiza, residents of that city welcomed the idea and when the team claimed they had cut the city’s salary bill by $800 000 through removal of illegal allowances and reversal of unlawful pay increases, the city rejoiced.
But even as they were still celebrating, the poor residents discovered the Fungai Mbetsa-led team had come to Chitungwiza not just to bring relief, but to line their pockets as well – milking the city dry through obscene allowances.
Municipal workers found out Mbetsa was allegedly getting $26 525 in salaries and allowances per month, his deputy about $14 500 while the other five team members got about $13 500 each.
Among the allowances, the workers alleged, was $375 entertainment, $300 airtime, $300 lunch and $200 other necessities.
The allowances were reportedly payable after every 10 days.
And, by virtue of being chairperson of the team, Mbetsa himself allegedly got $4 175 in allowances after every 10 days while council also paid $2 000 weekly for his hotel bills, 100 litres of fuel per week and $1 000 for “other necessities”.
Chitungwiza residents association chairman, Arthur Taderera said: “We are afraid because we now think minister Chombo is sending sharks to eat small fish.”
Mbetsa, whose job is provincial administrator for Manicaland, denied the claims but admitted he was getting monthly allowances of up to $16 000 which he broke down as — $75 per hour for his services in addition to $140 a day for accommodation. He also admitted he is getting 100 litres of fuel per week, $100 telephone allowance per week, $20 daily for lunch and an undisclosed entertainment allowance.
This just cannot be right. The big question is; for a civil servant, which is what Mbetsa is, what justifies this kind of plunder of an ailing city? What’s so special that Mbetsa is doing in Chitungwiza to give him the audacity to declare publicly, without shame, that he is entitled to this fairytale payment?
His brief was to plug the theft of money that residents of this town, including unemployed elderly people, struggle so much to find. It is morally wrong — almost criminal — for the so-called rescuscitation team to then go on to milk the cow whose calf is on the verge of starvation just because, in Mbetsa’s words . . . “The fees were fixed by the Minister of Local Government for a team of professionals who are not volunteers . . . ”.
And, even as the Mbetsa furore raged, Chombo was at it again. Last week the minister stirred a hornets’ nest, setting up yet another team, this time to investigate Bulawayo City Council (BCC).
The Bulawayo team is led by Finnie Munyira who said his team’s brief was to “receive evidence orally and/or in writing on issues of alleged corrupt tendencies and other matters”.
Within hours of the team’s arrival at BCC, it had allegedly squandered thousands of dollars for their personal welfare.
Bulawayo residents immediately cried foul. They told Chombo if he was so much concerned about corruption, he should first of all explain to the nation how he accumulated the massive wealth revealed in his divorce court papers. What sounds iffy is that Chombo sets up these teams, authorises silly allowances and orders that the bleeding local authorities pay!