PARLIAMENT will next month begin another public inquiry into the alleged abuse of a government administered-fund meant to benefit underprivileged youths in a move that could turn into a witch-hunt against Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Zhuwao was last year implicated in an $18 000 scam involving political activist and then Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) board member Acie Lumumba.
The Kurera/Ukondla (Youth Fund) programme was reportedly abused by youths and officials linked to the ruling Zanu PF party. In a notice this week, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth and Indigenisation chaired by Zanu PFs Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena said the public inquiry would be held in the second week of next month.
“The Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment will be conducting public hearings on youth funds from May 7 to 14. The contributions made will be considered by the portfolio committee and will be part of the committee’s report to be tabled in Parliament,” the notice, published yesterday, read, adding written submissions from interest groups would also be accepted.
Last year, ZYC assistant director for operations Sungano Chisina, who was the then acting executive director, told Wadyajena’s committee that Zhuwao directed them to engage Lumumba’s company, Cornerstone (Pvt) Ltd, to conduct a workshop aimed at brainstorming on a blueprint for a youth empowerment strategy without going to tender.
Chisina said Cornerstone (Pvt) Ltd initially indicated that they would provide the work for free, only to bill ZYC $17 600, ostensibly to cover the people Lumumba’s company had hired to facilitate.
According to the notice, the hearings will be held in Victoria Falls (Matabeleland North), Kwekwe (Midlands), Gokwe-Nembudziya (Midlands), Bindura (Mashonaland Central) and Masvingo.
Initially launched by Old Mutual as a $10 million revolving facility in 2011, the Youth Fund was expanded after government availed about $50 million that was administered by Stanbic Bank and Allied Bank, reports have over the years emerged of systematic looting with beneficiaries providing false addresses or failing to pay back.
In 2014, Wadyajena’s committee held an inquiry into the funds and heard that Zanu PF legislator for Mberengwa East and Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane was given a loan of $32 000 despite having been beyond the required age limit.
Allied Bank’s head of agribusiness James Mada told the committee that in 2010, the Ministry of Youth ordered the institution to disburse $27 667 to 30 youths from the Johanne Masowe Wechishanu Apostolic sect for poultry projects that turned into a “complete disaster”. The bank at the time said it had recovered a paltry $150.
Mada said Allied Bank also distributed individual loans worth $18 700 at 10% interest rate in 2010 and out of 21 beneficiaries, only eight paid back. In 2012, media reports from Manicaland alleged the fund was being abused and had been used to pay bride price by some beneficiaries.