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The birth of corruption in Zimbabwe


THE deadly HIV virus has caused its fair share of destruction to the Zimbabwean society and economy and worse still, continues to do so and likewise, another pandemic of a different nature, “corruption”, has now taken over.


The graft pandemic has taken its toll on the public and continues to send millions of citizens into the deepest end of poverty.

Unlike the deadly virus which has now been tamed by the introduction of antiretroviral drugs, corruption has proved a lot more difficult to suppress.

Instead, it has gone further to resist any forms of antidotes that have been put in place by the powers-that-be.

Zimbabweans would be interested to know how this country became infected and infested with the corruption contagion and what has become of the alleged culprits.


In the early 1980s, corruption at the scale we see it now was rare. The Paweni Grain Scandal was the most notable.

In the 1990s, sleaze wasalien, but when the biggest scandal, which was later known as “Willowgate”, rocked the country and left many politicians’ careers hanging by the thread after a letter got lost and landed on a businessman’s in-tray when he was not entitled to the tax rebates for a newly-assembled Toyota Cressida by government’s Willowvale Mazda Motor Industry (WMMI).

By that time, the letter and enclosed cheque were misdirected to businessman Obert Mpofu, who later became a politician. Mpofu is the current Transport and Infrastructural Development minister.

Mpofu was mystified as to why he would be entitled to a rebate from the WMMI assembly plant for a car he had not ordered.

He was also not entitled to buy the vehicle on relaxed terms as he was not yet a government official back then.

In the letter, Mpofu reportedly noticed that both items were actually not meant for his office, but were meant for one A Mpofu.

This other Mpofu later turned out to be an employee of a leading Bulawayo businessman, who was neck-deep in shady deals with many prominent politicians.

As the events unfolded, the letter eventually found its way to a local newspaper, The Chronicle, which then broke the story under a screaming headline: Cars Racket, and the story had a huge impact throughout Africa.

President Robert Mugabe immediately instituted an inquiry into the matter by appointing the Sandura Commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter at WMMI.

The findings by the three-member commission led by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Wilson Sandura led to the resignations from government of some Cabinet ministers.


Prominent among them was current Zimbabwean Ambassador to China Frederick Shava, Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial chair Callistus Ndlovu, the late Enos Nkala and Dzingai Mutumbuka among others while Political Affairs senior minister Maurice Nyagumbo reportedly committed suicide in shame and was declared a national hero.

The ministers, among others, were reportedly part of the scam that sowed the seeds of corruption, which pandemic the country would later struggle or rather fail to contain.

Mugabe, then, pledged to take action against the masterminds of the Willowgate Scandal.


As history will show, the Willowgate Scandal culprits were never brought to book, for reasons best known to the powers-that-be and by doing so, the government created an opportunity for other top officials to follow suit believing they would get the same protection their colleagues had enjoyed.

As fate would have it, those that resigned, would later blame themselves as they realised that sleaze was not a punishable offence in the country.

When the Willowgate Scandal broke, a few politicians that resigned fell by the wayside temporarily like Shava, who later politically resurrected to become Zanu PF Midlands chairman and eventually party national director of administration before being posted to represent the country in China.

While Nyagumbo died by his own hand, Nkala later died a pauper after he was forgotten by the government, but those that hung on like Ndlovu have made a comeback into the political limelight.

Nyagumbo must be turning in his grave ruing why he killed himself in shame as skullduggery is now the order of the day in government.

It is clear that the failure by government to take stern measures against its corrupt elements started breeding corruption within other government circles that would later spread to private institutions, which resulted in top musicians like Thomas Mapfumo and Solomon Skuza coming up with songs bemoaning corruption that had invaded Zimbabwe.

At the time WMMI was at the centre of the racket, its sister plant in Mutare, which assembled Toyotas, Mazdas and Peugeots from imported “kits”, was the only other legal importers of cars into Zimbabwe.

At the time, there was a long waiting list for the vehicles, but the law allowed ministers and MPs to jump the queue on grounds that they needed cars for official business.

Instead of keeping these cars, however, many officials were reselling them at huge mark-ups in violation of a law controlling the prices of second-hand vehicles by the government.

At that time, Shava bought and sold so many vehicles that the Sandura Commission criticised him for “behaving like a car dealer”.


Zimbabweans will also remember that there was the War Victims’ Compensation Fund which was introduced in the ’90s where a number of government officials claimed as much as 90% disability and “looted” government funds in the name of having participated in the nationalist struggle.

Though the idea of compensating the country’s heroes was noble, the scheme was marred by controversies as corrupt elements in high offices invaded the good cause and fleeced the fund’s coffers.

Not only were these two incidents at the helm of corruption breeding in the country, there was also the Senior Civil Servants’ Housing Scheme, which saw non-civil servants benefitting from the loans that were availed by the government to assist its own poor masses.

Large sums of cash were looted by top government officials and although a handful non-civil servants benefited, no action was taken against them and by doing so, it increased the rate of corruption which has now spilled into the 21st century at an alarming rate.


Corrupt elements in the government and parastatals continue to enjoy protection even to this day.
Quite a number of top government officials have been fingered in corrupt activities, but nothing has been done to them as they continue to enjoy protection from their comrades in arms.

The same situation has been prevailing to date where only the “elite” in top positions seem to enjoy the “corruption fruits” and continue to smile all the way to the banks at the expense of the majority of the Zimbabweans who still continue to wallow in poverty.


Recently, Mugabe introduced the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), an organisation meant to deal with the corrupt elements in the country, but the same commission has been at the centre of a lot of controversies and accused of being corrupt itself.

ZACC is up in arms with its own commissioners who have accused their employer of causing the disappearance of over $5 million which was meant to benefit its employees in terms of salaries, allowances and other packages.

Rather, the anti-graft body has gone further to engage top lawyers to defend itself in the courts of law using a substantial amount of money which could have benefited its operations in fighting corruption in the country, and the question now remains “Who will guard the guard” if any meaningful decision to combat corruption in Zimbabwe is to be made?

  •  1987 — Ziscosteel Blast Furnace Scandal
  •  1987 — Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal — $100 million
  •  1986 — National Railways Housing Scandal
  •  1988 — Willowgate Scandal
  •  1989 — ZRP Santana Scandal
  •  1994 — War Victims Compensation Scandal
  •  1995 — GMB Grain Scandal
  •  1996 — VIP Housing Scandal
  •  1998 — Boka Banking Scandal
  •  1998 — ZESA YTL Soltran Scandal
  •  1998 — Telecel Scandal
  •  1998 — Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal
  •  1999 — Housing Loan Scandal
  •  1999 — Noczim Scandal
  •  1999 — DRC timber and diamond UN-reported scandals
  •  1999 — GMB Scandal
  • 1999 — Ministry of Water and Rural Development Chinese Tender Scandal
  •  1999 — VIP Land Grab Scandal
  •  2001 — Harare Airport Scandal

Excerpts from a paper presented by Dr G Shana at the Mass Public Opinion Institute Seminar, Crowne Plaza Hotel, May 9, 2006

Corruption in Zimbabwe has come in phases

THE most unanimous opinion condensed from audit reports, donor reports, household surveys, business environment and enterprise surveys, legislative reports and diagnostic studies available between 1980 -1987 was that the incidences of corruption, though present, were minimal no matter how they were defined.

During this period the State enjoyed a relatively high level of integrity, the few incidences of grand corruption that emerged in the form of two cases (State vs Paweni , State vs Charles Ndhlovu), received widespread societal condemnation.

From 1987, however, Zimbabwe saw an exponential rise in cases of corruption, from two in seven years to an average of three to four cases a year until 2002 when the lid fell off.

The down spiral began in 1987 and then chronicled the progressive disintegration of the national moral and economic fibre. The vast majority of the cases, if not all, involved high-ranking politicians, some of whom are still active in politics and/or government having been surreptiously recycled back into positions of authority even when they had been convicted and sentenced.

Involvement in corruption appears to have enhanced their political careers, not damaged them. The evil and upward spiral of corruption took a dramatic upward turn following the watershed elections of 2001/2002.

From 1980 to 1987, corruption was largely opportunistic corruption or greed corruption; from 1987 to 2001 we witnessed the emergence of political elite corruption or network corruption.

This was fast followed by patronage corruption as the networks needed protection and ensured political loyalty and leverage by the patrons.

From 2002, political corruption, chaotic corruption entered and now we are in the belly of a new phenomenon of corruption called the Corruption Factory or systemic or managed corruption that has engulfed the private sector in a greater manner than before.

Extract of a paper presented by Dr G Shana at the Mass Public Opinion Institute Seminar, Crowne Plaza Hotel, May 9, 2006

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  1. A fish rots from the head down. Corruption has been rife in this country for so many years and yet the head of state has not anything significant about it, except the Willowvale scandal, which anybody with senses knows was a ploy to get rid of political thorns from Mugabe’s flesh. And he succeeded.

    That Mugabe has maintained some of the most corrupt individuals in Cabinet, with all reports at his diposal, shows he is not serious about combating the disease. Instead he went on to establish a toothless commission to wood wink the people of Zimbabwe and gave it no powers to operate.

    And there are those who make noises saying we should emulate his examplary leadership. My foot!!!!

    • Tatenda …would appreciate your suggestions on what you think are the practical solutions to corruption. This forum is not for waffling………..

      • My wish is to see the so called corruption wiped off from this poor made nation. If, this is the true investigations into all these corruption charges must be punished no matter is from which party or ruling party he should face the music.

        But if it is like the usual way of the ZUPCO and GMB scandals then its a waste of time,the police should be given the powers to arrest and courts given the powers to punish them all. Kwete kuti uyu anonzi muzukuru vaendesei kuChikurubi motora zvese zvavanazvo chete kuti tione kuti muri kutaura chokwadi,(The country is waiting to see what RGM is going to do,maybe he will appoint them deputy ministers like Bright former ZUPCO CEO who got away with it) GOOD LUCK TO ZIMBABWE)

  2. Obert Mpofu’s daughter has more money today than the whole liberation army had in all the years it prosecuted the war.

  3. …..and where is the ZRP…they are the most corrupt,thats why they are not arresting their fellow thieves.

  4. It is corruption not sanctions which killed Zim economy . Mugabe should focus on corruption to recover the economy.

  5. é president’s 2 blame, hw cn he appoint hs folks in2 é anti corruption commissions, he js wnts 2 fool us in2 bliving he’s concerned, no he’s NOT. it’s anotha way of sweeping it under é carpet. in most of these cases he’s involved. tht xplains y a sitting president owns é largest dairy processing company in é country n numerous farms whilst hs wife is busy taking over Mazowe land

    • and this explains why he paid for cash a mansion in Hong Kong worth a whooping $5 000 000 yes I mean a whooping $5 million United States Dollars. Then you expect such a very corrupt individual to fight corruption! Oh my foot!! Not in this world.

  6. Thanks Nevanji for publishing this article. People can now see where we coming from with corruption so that we dont expect the impossible: no one has ever been held accountable except for poor Nyagumbo who took his life

  7. The late Eddy Garwe resigned as a minister after the leak of an exam paper. His comrades hounded him to death for having set a bad example by resigning after a scandal. When he died he was accorded a prov hero status despite his contribution to the liberation struggle. Food for thought

  8. Resignation was a unilateral decision that Ed Garwe took without consulting the Party. That later tarnished his image in relation to the overall contribution to the national struggle. Hence he could not be a national hero. True, fearless cadres, gallant sons of the soil, will never take any course of action without consulting the backbone of the revolutionary Party. You can see it, from this article, in Nyagumbo, Mutumbuka, Nkala etc. Those who were bold enough to stick by the rules stayed and stay to this day.

  9. well written ,lets fight this virus .Image wht zimbabwe will be in the next 10 or so yrsz if we dont fight it, the next generation dead

  10. The writer spoiled an otherwise good article by fawning over ZanuPF by saying, “Though the idea of compensating the country’s heroes was noble, the scheme was marred by controversies as corrupt elements in high offices invaded the good cause and fleeced the fund’s coffers” – utter utter nonsense. Compensation noble? The writer is either deliberately misrepresenting facts or does not know the whole story or both. His statement is not only corrupt but it also the reason why corruption goes unpunished in Zimbabwe if he doesn’t know that. Is the writer not aware that a majority of those who skipped the border in the late 1960 to 1970s were fugitives from justice for non-political crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, stealing and fraud – people who had no interest in politics or allegiance to any political organisation? We know some of them who hold or held top government positions. Why should taxpayers’ money be used to compensate such people? It was always going to be abused. I know of someone who skipped the border in the late 1970s, after something he had done at his place of work, and was promptly sent for training Ethiopia and only came back from Ethiopia in 1981. I don’t know whether he got compensation or not. Maybe he did? What for? Skipping the border? Crime does pay indeed.
    Besides, the fighting by Zanu or Zapu has no bearing to the attainment of black rule – majority rule was negotiated by other parties operating internally at the time. Zanu and Zapu are not expected to say they used the wrong strategy in resorting to fighting rather than negotiate, are they? Zanu and Zapu were not even able to capture a small police border post! It was our votes which got Zanu into power in 1980.
    The writer cannot fulminate about corruption when he deliberately misrepresents facts as some of us know them. Compensate them for doing what? If you ask a mechanic (A) to fix your car and comes up with a variety of defects, is unable to fix the problem – you tow the car to a different mechanic (B) – do you pay the first mechanic (A) for trying or you pay the second mechanic (B) who fixed the problem?

  11. The government is taking its citizens for granted and is very much aware that we are useless in terms of acting. Until the whole nation confront these guys nothing is going to change.

  12. Fighting and defeating corruption will only produce positive results if there is concerted effort from Robert Mugabe and his executives to prosecute and punish offenders. At the moment there is NIL effort and as a matter of fact most of the bunch is corrupt to the bone hence the absence of will to prosecute their kin and kith.

    For example how can one man like Philip Chiyangwa own such innumerable and vast pieces of land in Harare? How come there is no one properly investigating him? It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that there must be someone right at the top sharing the spoils.

    The gravy train goes headlong on the path of destruction and all we can say is God help our beloved Zimbabwe.

  13. I want to rephrase the last sentence in my earlier posting – it should now read, “If a mechanic (A) VOLUNTEERS to fix your car and comes up with a variety of defects – is unable to fix the problem – you tow the car to a different mechanic (B) – do you pay the first mechanic (A) for trying or you pay the second mechanic (B) who fixed the problem?”

  14. upto I saw the draft that said $5961 , I accept that my brothers friend could realey taking home money in there spare time at there computar. . there mums best friend has been doing this 4 only about eleven months and resently cleard the morgage on their cottage and got a top of the range Saab 99 Turbo . find out here now,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, http://WWW.Bay95.COM

  15. No matter what or how we say it corruption is here to stay for as long zpf is in power. No one in zpf can raise a finger agst e other. Mugabe anototyawo kuti he will be exposed if he tries to deal w it cos he is also corrupt to e marrow. Who can 4get e Gracelands saga + how many farms does he have in violation of his 1 man 1 farm policy? What is needed is a strong opposition like e Tsvangirai of zctu. Some1 who is prepared to defy e regime and lead from e front. Izvi zvekungoita matalks and conferences doesn’t help

  16. You cannot eradicate corruption when it is at high level. For your own information vanhu ava havasungani nekuti vamwechete. Mari dzavanenge vachitora imwe yacho inoenda kuzpf. Corruption will only ends when zpf is out of power!

  17. Mugabe should just accept reality and take a successor before its too late. Dr Simba Makoni is a man who have clean hands.

  18. Hamawe hapana asiri corrupt muZANU PF from the President to the peasant vanhu vanoda zvemahara-mahala ivava.Tisu takavajaidza kubva muhondo chaimo we gave them free food and some were getting free women as belly warmers. Remember the bulk of these guys had not even worked in their lifetime, and from the bush to high positions and what would u expect from such people. The main objective of these guys was to get rid of mabhunu and they themselves become black mabhunu, so u will see that they will always reap ooh i mean RAPE this country’s wealth and resorces until this country become barren. NEVER EVER think in yo slighest imagination that the PRESIDIUM will act on graft , fraud and corruption becoz they themselves laid the firm foundations cemented by cronism, nepotism and patronage

  19. what do yu think about lowyer? judge haakwanise kuona here kuti this lowyer arikutsigira nhema. nema judge acho havachazivawo basa rawo ..malowyerz akadaro anofanirwa kusungwa ipapo ipapo.

  20. The learned ones educated ones from Halale shd take axn This nation is gone dead generations to come are in trouble Lobengula was better Mzilikazi was excellent he also took what he wanted from these Halale fools

  21. Thumbs up to Jonathan Moyo…we need people like you who can fire those doing deservice to the nation…Thumbs up for the revelations that are going on in the media today…thumbs up Jonathan if all could see the way l see things but we are different though…THUMBS UP Jonathan Moyo…We wish Kembo Mohadi could emulate you but he can not…l wonder whether he is not seeing the rot that has become of our police force…

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