Gokwe whistleblowers under siege

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WHISTLEBLOWERS, who unmasked corrupt activities at Gokwe Town Council, are under siege from suspended officials and accomplices who are still in the local authority who have roped in State security agents to intimidate them.

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Gokwe ward 1 councillor Davies Taruvinga (Zanu PF), who is a witness in the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc)-investigated case was picked by Gokwe Criminal Investigations Department at the weekend and interviewed on trumped-up charges.

However, former MDC councillor Vengesai Chipfuko — also a Zacc witness in the allegations against suspended town secretary Melania Mandeya and finance director Jockonia Nyoni — was not summoned by the police.

Taruvinga told NewsDay that police interviewed him on allegations filed by the suspended council officials’ accomplices before he was released.

“I was summoned to Gokwe CID in connection with some trumped-up allegations to silence me. They interviewed me over a council tuckshop which was being rented by my wife. The same tuckshop has been rented by different councillors of late and is fully paid,” Taruvinga said.

“I see this as an attack on the anti-corruption fight and intimidatory tactics. I feel the police are being used to suppress this fight. We have reported cases of corruption at Gokwe council before, but the police were reluctant to act and we suspect that money was changing hands. We then approached Zacc with the help of some independent anti-corruption organisations which successfully instituted investigations, leading to the discovery of the looting of council funds and subsequent arrests of these officials.”

Taruvinga is the only Zanu PF councillor in the MDC Alliance-controlled council.
Recently, he compiled a dossier which implicated some politicians and State security agents who were renting council premises without paying rates.

On March 10, 2020 during a full council meeting, Taruvinga and MDC Alliance councillor Machinda Mutembedzi opposed the raising of the allowance without the Local Government ministry approval.

However, they failed to convince chairperson Never Gwanzura and Darlington Mudondo who allegedly forced acting town secretary Joseph Madhlokuwa to release the money backdated to November 2019.

Mudondo, who was town chairperson in 2009, was once fired for corruption before his return to council for a second spell.

The Local Government ministry, however, reversed the decision to award councillors backdated allowances and they were ordered to pay back the stipends in a circular sent to Gokwe Town Council and seen by this paper.

Taruvinga said they had gone for three months without allowances because of that decision.

Contacted for comment, Zacc spokesperson John Makamure urged the whistleblowers to report the matter to the commission.

“Our witnesses are very important. As Zacc, we treat the protection of our witness importantly. If they are people or police intimidating our witness, we treat it as a criminal offence. The cases of suspended council officials are still in the courts and we guard and protect our witnesses from intimidation. We urge him (Taruvinga) to report the matter to us and we will institute investigations. We are not rubbishing the allegations, but our matters are before the courts and we need to protect our witnesses,” Makamure said.

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