Revisiting history: Sandura commission – early signs of a flawed justice system

In recent years, we have seen the police ignoring court rulings and carrying out orders of the despotic leaders, a clear sign that the justice system in Zimbabwe, has been rendered useless.

By Roy Muroyi

President Robert Mugabe has continuously used corruption as a way of buying loyalty among his Zanu PF cadres.
President Robert Mugabe has continuously used corruption as a way of buying loyalty among his Zanu PF cadres.

The situation has turned to be that of the police against the people, with the police defying court rulings and severely punishing innocent civilians for expressing their democratic right to demonstrate.

President Robert Mugabe has continuously spoken about respecting the rule of law when it suits him and his party.

Such a charade has seen the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and other civil organisations failing on a number of occasions to take to the streets and express their democratic right to demonstrate against government misrule.

It is imperative to note that, this circus has long been allowed in Zimbabwe and is part of the “king’s hold on power”. Through allowing corruption and patronage that compromises the justice system, Mugabe has made strides in consolidating his power to be the “only capable leader for Zimbabwe”.

Fed up with corruption in the Zanu PF government, Edgar Tekere went on to form the opposition party, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM). This was after Mugabe, with the help of his Zimbabwe Republic Police, crushed student demonstrations against government corruption in September 1988.

What Mugabe failed to realise was that his image had already been tainted by corruption such that by 1993, was graft looming in government parastatals and the public service, it had reached epidemic proportions.

By all party standards then, it had proved to be extremely difficult to keep leaders committed to the idea of an austere socialism. Indeed, more ominously to common legal rational principles of administrative conduct and accountability.

Zimbabwean ministers, politicians and bureaucrats had succumbed to the temptation of using access to political office, so as to benefit and build themselves as wealthy political patrons.

In the late 1980s, Zimbabwe was rocked by the Willowvale car scandal, which proved to be the worst corruption scandal ever to be experienced in this country.

The need to create a one party state made Mugabe ignore corruption at the highest level of government.

The one party state that Mugabe had attempted to create through forcefully swallowing Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu, had proved to be a pain in the “stomach” because of corruption. Nevertheless, Mugabe seemed to gain political mileage from the corruption of the day, as he kept on pardoning his ministers that were found guilty of corruption instead of punishing them. This is the root of corruption that has led to the total collapse of the economy today.

By 1989, Zimbabwe was still one of the most successful countries in Africa, but as successful as the country was, getting to work for an ordinary citizen especially in Harare was a night mare.

The Peugeot 404s that were used in those days were always full and buses were very scarce on the road.

The ordinary citizens could not import cars, even if you had the money to buy, you simply could not get a car on the market.

Willowvalle Motors was the only official car importer in the country, and for you to purchase a car, you had to be on a very long waiting list under Willowvale Motors.

The reason behind the long list was virtually unknown to the ordinary citizen. The reason was simple though, Zimbabwe did not have enoughforeign currency to import more vehicles. The country was one of the most strapped for foreign exchange.

Besides the country being the bread basket of the African continent at that time, it simply was short of foreign currency. The reasons for this was the fact that the government had decided to pay off its foreign debt on schedule, rather than stretching out interest and principal payments over a longer period, as with other African countries.

This was a reasonable policy, considering the country was doing well economically at the time.

In 1988, more than 33% of its $1,8 billion in foreign income went to paying off debt. The country’s coffers were further drained by oil imports and a highly trained military, which many did not understand its significance.

Zimbabwe came to a halt one morning in October 1988, when The Chronicle, with Geoffrey Nyarota, as the editor, carried this headline Cars racket. Under the headline, a businessman, Obert Mpofu, had brought to the attention of the newspaper, documents that reviewed the highest level of corruption Africa had ever seen.

This gave Nyarota and his deputy, Davison Maruziva, the scoop that was going to change the face of Zimbabwe for many years to follow.

Under pressure, Mugabe had no option, but to set up a commission of inquiry under Justice Wilson Sandura, which was to be known as the Sandura Commission of Inquiry and the motor scandal dubbed the “Willowgate Scandal”.

The Willowagate scandal became the exiting point of some ministers from Zimbabwean politics, after being found guilty of breaching the law that governed the buying and selling of second hand cars.

The reason behind the shortage of the cars was found to be an unorthodox buying and selling of cars by government ministers, who had the privilege of buying cars, skipping the long waiting list at Willowvalle Motors under the guise that they were using the cars for official business.

The Sandura Commission implicated many Zanu PF officials, after large amounts of money and suspicious transactions, were found in their bank accounts.

Officials such as Josiah Tungamirai were found guilty and admitted to their crime without perjury.

Some of the ministers with large sums of money, which they could not account for under the inquiry include Enos Nkala, who bought a car for Z$29 000 and sold it for a whooping Z$90 000, was also charged with perjury after he lied to the court under oath.

Maurice Nyagumbo had Z$11 500, while Callistus Ndlovu allegedly purchased a motor vehicle for Z$22 087 and resold it for Z$65 000.

Mark Dube, the then Matabeleland South provincial governor, allegedly purchased a vehicle for Z$24 000 and resold it for Z$80 000 to G Scultz.

Enos Chikowore is said to have used his position as minister of Local Government and Urban Development to assist his personal secretary, Alice Sakupwanya and her friend, Esther Gupo to buy two Nissan Sedans.

Perhaps the biggest looter’s award goes to Frederick Shava, whom the commission described as a “car dealer”. Shava made about $70 000 in a year.

Besides the fact that Mugabe went on to grant a pardon to those implicated perhaps, as part of his political policy of granting favours to those around him, so as to keep them forever indebted to him, as suggested by Tekere in his biography, A Life Time of Struggle.

Nyagumbo went on to commit suicide. Perhaps Nyagumbo knew that this was some ploy by Mugabe to keep him at bay, since he would forever be indebted to him, had the President pardoned him.

Another school of thought suggests that Nyagumbo never committed suicide but his death was stage managed by State agents.

According to Todd (2007), Zanu PF’s corruption started earlier, as early as 1983, when Zimbabwe witnessed the Paweni Scandal, but was again swept under the carpet, with Kumbirai Kangai being pardoned after being implicated.

The scandal saw the government lose $6 million after Samson Paweni won a tender to transport maize to the drought affected parts of Zimbabwe. Paweni had won the tender because he had strong Zanu PF links.

Funds that were meant to buy maize were diverted to pay Paweni’s hefty transport charges.

Kumbirai Kangai was implicated in the scandal, but was again pardoned by Mugabe.

Instead of punishing corruption, Mugabe has continuously used corruption as a way of buying loyalty amongst his Zanu PF cadres.

Again, the Sandura inquiry was made to be a mockery of the justice system, as it produced nothing meaningful in terms of dealing with corruption, but was rather used as a way of consolidating Mugabe’s power.

Those implicated in the scandal were pardoned, the only people, who really lost their power and political mileage are the two heavy-weights, Nkala and Nyagumbo, who were also potential threats to “The king’s throne”.

Today, the police force continues to be used as Mugabe’s weapon for crushing democracy.

They continue to overrule the court’s rulings and enforce Mugabe’s orders.

Roy Muroyi is a pro-democracy promoter, A strong activist, who believes in youth emancipation in all facets of governance. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on rmuroyi23@gmail.com. Article appears on Khuluma Afrika

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