There were wild celebrations when Zimbabwean ambassador to the United Nations, Frederick Shava, assumed the presidency of the United Nations Economic and Social Council on Monday, but he is a man with a chequered history and has built his career on patronage and President Robert Mugabe’s benevolence.
by PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Shava in the late 1980s was one of the Zimbabwean Cabinet ministers who were arrested, tried and convicted of perjury in the infamous Willowgate Scandal.
The scandal involved ministers who abused their positions to buy then luxurious Toyota Cressida vehicles from the government-controlled vehicle assembler Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries and resold them to corporates at inflated prices, usually double or three times their purchase price.
Shava lied under oath to the Sandura Commission that was investigating the cases of corruption involving ministers.
In its judgment convicting Shava, the High Court said: “The post of minister is a very high office, which carries great status, privileges and powers. It also carries great responsibilities.
“The incumbent of such office is expected to lead by example. His primary duty is to observe the laws of the country. In this regard, the accused failed miserably.”
After his conviction, Shava was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment with no option of a fine, but Mugabe acted swiftly and issued a presidential pardon 24 hours later.
“Who among us has not lied? Yesterday you were with your girlfriend and you told your wife that you were with the Prime Minister. Should you get nine months for that?” Mugabe queried as he freed Shava.
Following this statement, the State immediately halted plans to charge other ministers accused of perjury in one of the first high-profile corruption scandals to hit the newly-independent country.
Among other ministers implicated then were Callistus Ndlovu, the late Enos Nkala, Dzingai Mutumbuka and the late Maurice Nyagumbo., who subsequently committed suicide.
In yet another case, Shava in 2006 tried unsuccessfully to appropriate agricultural implements at a Kwekwe farm owned by Rolling Rivers Enterprises, which he had been allocated under the fast-track land reform programme.
In her ruling, High Court judge Justice Anne-Mary Gowora said: “I will, as a consequence, issue an order in final terms for the equipment to be released to the applicants and further that they may be permitted in terms of this order to retrieve from whomsoever may be in possession of the same.”
Despite Shava’s legal issues, Mugabe still had a soft spot for the disgraced former minister and appointed him the country’s representative to China.
He then later succeeded Boniface Chidayusiku, as the country’s permanent representative at the UN.