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Dismantle corrupt political machine churning out Moyo types

Opinion & Analysis
ZANU PF’s well-oiled corrupt political machine was exposed again in full throttle last week hurtling into this week. But we have not seen and heard from Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — being in the eye of the storm — the usual embarrassment, shame and contrition we associate with someone — especially high up — caught in sordid, criminal activities.

ZANU PF’s well-oiled corrupt political machine was exposed again in full throttle last week hurtling into this week. But we have not seen and heard from Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — being in the eye of the storm — the usual embarrassment, shame and contrition we associate with someone — especially high up — caught in sordid, criminal activities.


There was not the slightest pricking of conscience, as Moyo — apparently emboldened by President’s Robert Mugabe stopping the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) from taking him in on charges of helping himself to Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) financial resources after his tearful melodramatic performance in a Zanu PF politburo meeting, where he blamed his imminent arrest on his political foes, as if they had forced Zimdef funds into his hands — reverted to type. He returned to his usual cocky style after recovering from the arrest scare, posturing as a modern-day Robin Hood robbing the rich to feed the poor.

“You can say what you want, but I would rather be a Robin Hood than a cruel tribalist, murderer and UN-identified cross-border diamond thief,” Moyo bragged.

Was it a coincidence that soon after Moyo said that, we had this headline in a State-run newspaper: Zimdef fails to pay staff? Any starker perversion and inversion of the heroic outlaw in English folklore, because Robin Hood did not rob the poor to feed the rich or steal from struggling students — the designated beneficiaries of Zimdef? No wonder the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union said: “We cannot even call minister Moyo’s defence childish for fear of insulting children.” Could there be intellectual burnout at play? I digress.

What’s at play is abuse of office to satisfy greed, not need. So, deflecting attention to some “cruel tribalist, murderer and UN-identified cross-border diamond thief” does not exonerate Moyo from the glaring theft and corruption. Whether it’s coming from Goodson Nguni or anyone similarly tainted or not, the fact of the matter is that a gross crime has been committed and there is abundant evidence to prove that. And belonging to a faction real or perceived to be anti-Mugabe does not lessen the provability or nullify the validity of such evidence. The dirty or unclean hands doctrine — the rule of law that a person coming to court with a lawsuit or petition for a court order must be free from unfair conduct — doesn’t apply here. You do not have to be uncorrupted yourself to point out corruption in other people. Many — if not most — of police informants are criminals themselves. You set a thief to catch a thief. The best persons to catch thieves are other thieves because they know how thieves think and operate. So, it’s neither here nor there that Moyo’s accusers could be his political foes out to settle scores.

Lectured Moyo: “The state of underdevelopment in Tsholotsho is such that bicycles are a necessity just like matches! It is criminal to claim that a decision by the Zimdef trustee, me, to fund computers and bicycles requested by Tsholotsho RDC (Rural District Council) is corruption!”

This is not only insulting, but pathetic. Moyo’s roles as Higher Education minister and Tsholotsho North MP cannot be mixed; the two are separate. But, despite being a professor, he conflates them in his desperation to wriggle out of the deep trouble he has mired himself in. To jog the professor’s memory, there is what is called the Constituency Development Fund from which allocations are made specifically for buying bicycles and other vote-buying trinkets.

And has the learned professor not heard of virement — the administrative transfer of funds from one part of a budget to another — after all these years as a government minister? In view of that, it is criminal for Moyo to unilaterally and unprocedurally transfer money from Zimdef to Tsholotsho RDC bypassing the Local Government ministry, under which the RDC falls.

But it’s baffling that some people are giving Moyo too much credit for having somehow engineered this latest corruption saga in his mission to destroy Zanu PF from within, whereas Moyo has a predilection for dishonesty out of greed as seen in the scandals he was embroiled in at Ford Foundation in Kenya and Wits University (South Africa) in the 1990s, where he was accused of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for academic research.

The current allegations against him are consistent with his record. Like at Ford and Wits, Moyo has been caught with his hand in the till. People are creatures of habit. They return to the same patterns of behaviour. This makes Moyo a repeat offender. At Zimdef there was no elaborate political scheme, but a pecuniary interest: To make as much money as possible using his position as minister on the Zanu PF gravy train. It is about money and nothing else than money. That is all there is to it. So, Moyo, more so now that he is really running scared, will — including tears and all that weepy stuff — tell Mugabe what he wants to hear: That the ultimate target of the “plotters” fingering him (Moyo) for his corrupt deeds is Mugabe himself — and protection from arrest is guaranteed for the professor.

All in all, one can deduce that Moyo is speaking from a position of power and privilege. This means he is likely to underestimate and even brush off the gravity of his situation — as he is already doing — because the system will not hold him personally accountable, but protect him all the way because the whole bang shoot of them are equally tainted. It will only become a crime if he breaks ranks with the system. That’s how cronyism works.

Thus, Moyo’s statement against reform of electoral laws to level the political playing field that: “We can’t reform ourselves out of power” begins to make sense. He really meant it. He is essentially saying they are mighty scared to lose their privileges in the same way the French nobility were against the 1789 Revolution because they did not want to lose their inherited privileges.

What we are contending with is a whole political machine — one that has become corrupt to the core. A political machine is a political organisation in which an authoritarian boss — like Mugabe — controls its activities and commands the backing of a corps of supporters (like Moyo and the Zanu PF youth league) and businesses (including State-owned firms and cash-rich levy-collecting parastatals like Zimdef and Zinara) whose bosses receive rewards for their efforts and protection (ditto Moyo, Zanu youth league leaders). Why would a whole Vice-President go to a police station and order the immediate release of Zinara bosses fingered in a corruption scam running into millions of dollars? Political machines also often accept payments from criminal enterprises and elements in exchange for protection from police or Zacc investigation of their activities. These enterprises become their steady sources of income.

But at what point are people — including those long-abused stalwarts of the liberation struggle still in Zanu PF who are being insulted by Moyo-type upstarts — going to say: “Enough is enough!” and demand solutions that address real problems such as corruption? We need people that are prepared to break ranks and join the rest of the nation against this “rulers’ justice” where big fish get away with not even a slap on the hand for corruption, while ordinary people, who have committed much, much less crimes, face the full wrath of the law. It’s time to move away from pliant talk and take action — concrete action — by people not allowing themselves to be swamped anymore by parroting of slogans resulting in cover-ups seen at Zanu PF gatherings and forums.

People should ask themselves whether their loyalty is to the person or party — or nation. They should come to a decision about what is in the best interest of the nation — which is, getting the government back on track.

And to do that, we have to dismantle the corrupt political machine that is churning out the likes of Moyo. It’s difficult, but not impossible.

Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: nkumbuzo@gmail.com