News in depth: Corruption, opulence and a showy attitude in a sea of poverty

Reports are that Wadyajena never paid any duty for the said vehicle, an incident that exposes how the politically-connected elite cost the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) by evading taxes.

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA IN May 2022, Zanu PF Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Mayor Wadyajena notoriously known for a razzmatazz lifestyle could not miss the opportunity to tell whoever cared to listen that he had loads of money to spend.

“I moved to The Brooke in my 20s a decade ago, so I know the regulations just as you know the road to the American Embassy.

“Tell the two racists and 11 low-lives who called to name their price so I bit their homes,” Wadyajena bragged on Twitter in response to journalist Hopewell Chin’ono after he called him out for disorderly conduct in Borrowdale Brooke.

The youthful MP had been accused of “noise pollution” with his Lamborghini sports car, driving around the suburb in the middle of the night.

“I would like to bring to your attention that the residents of the Borrowdale Brooke Estate were offended and felt violated by the noise you were making when you drove around the Brooke in the early hours of the morning between midnight and 1am on 11th May 2022,” Borrowdale Brooke Golf Estate Chairman, Shingi Munyeza wrote reprimanding the MP.

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“We appreciate that you are entitled to have the type of car which makes the noise you want but to make that noise that woke up much of the Brooke residents is insensitive and disregards the community rules as set out in the Borrowdale Brooke Home Owners Association Rule Book, Clause 3.3.”

Reports are that Wadyajena never paid any duty for the said vehicle, an incident that exposes how the politically-connected elite cost the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) by evading taxes.

Now, three months later, the vehicle has been seized by the State as part of a wider investigation into an alleged US$5.8 million fraud and money laundering by the legislator at the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco).

The vehicle was seized last week along with the MP’s 25 haulage trucks suspected to be proceeds of the Cottco fraud. Wadyajena is out on ZW$200 000 bail.

#BREAKING 🔴Wadyajena arrested on US$5 million fraud and money laundering.

— NewsDay Zimbabwe (@NewsDayZimbabwe) August 16, 2022

Last month, a warehouse in Gokwe, believed to be owned by Wadyajena was also raided by police  and they reportedly found truckloads of stolen Presidential agricultural inputs meant for villagers.

Ironically, when he was released on bail, the embattled legislator received a hero’s welcome in his constituency. Boasting about his vast empire of assets, Wadyajena told his bemused audience, supposed victims of his alleged crimes, that he did not care about the forfeiture of his cars, trucks and mansions.

He said: “Let them take my trucks, let them take my cars. Even if they want to take my house, let them take…. Who said I can’t leave Harare and come back here (in Gokwe) to stay?”

Wadyajena made headlines in 2019 after he imported a brand-new Lamborghini Urus SUV, which he reportedly bought for US$420 000. Critics mockingly questioned how he would navigate the super car in the pothole-infested local roads.

Just like Wadyajena, many political elites, particularly ruling party members and their proxies, are living lavish lifestyles, buying super cars, building imposing mansions and enjoying holidays at some of the world’s most expensive resorts while the majority of citizens are wallowing in poverty.

Last week, a video showing controversial businessman Delish Nguwaya, in a private jet showing off his opulence also went viral on social media.

Nguwaya was implicated in the US$60 million Covid-19 scandal and has been named in the controversial Pomona deal that seeks to have a Netherlands-based company Geogenix BV pocket over US$240 million at US$22 000 a day from council for waste deliveries.

The source of the millions that these political elites are splashing is not known. But most of them have been seen in pictures with top politicians, a good number of them taking photos with the First Family at State House.

Some of them have been accused of running corrupt money spinning schemes including underground gold dealings.

A recent report by the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) on gold and diamond racketeering fingered President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally, Scott Sakupwanya, in alleged gold leakages totalling an estimated US$157 million every month.

Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga also torched a social media storm last year after video clips of him showing off his vast fortunes went viral.

Guvamatanga was seen pledging to multiply by five the money that had been agreed as payment to a South African-based superstar to perform at his decorated 50th birthday bash.

This is all happening when public hospitals across the country are running without drugs, citizens enduring incessant power cuts, water taps going dry for months and the majority citizens feeding from hand to mouth. Life is very tough nowadays in Zimbabwe which ranks among the poorest countries in the world.

In its latest annual report on the political and human rights situation, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum decried the contrast between the luxurious lifestyles of elite politicians and ordinary citizens’ stinking poverty.

Millions of public funds are lost yearly through illicit financial leakages and corruption perpetrated mainly by political elite, international monetary organisations report.

Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said the ignorance of the citizens on public funds use had allowed politicians to plunder the country’s wealth to feed their lavish lifestyles locally and abroad.

“Citizens have many rights enshrined in the Constitution to guard against abuse of public funds,” Madhuku said.

“They can make use of the Parliamentary process where they can send their representative in the National Assembly to question suspected unaccounted wealth of a government official.

“But are we seeing legislators question that in Parliament? No. The sad truth is that politicians are using citizens’ ignorance to their advantage for political mileage.

“They do not want scrutiny to remain in power or get into power. They would rather have an ignorant citizenry than that which guards against their unscrupulous practices.”

After revelations of Wadyajena’s tax evasion, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts rose up and said government should implement lifestyle audits in the fight against corruption and fraud.

While addressing ministers at the first 2022 Cabinet meeting at the State House, President Emmerson Mnangagwa admitted that  ministers blew millions of taxpayers money in “endless foreign jaunts”with bloated entourages. But political analysts believe that continued deterioration of the country’s economy was a result of wanton corruption by political bigwigs.

“There is no doubt that the current crisis is a result of primitive accumulation by elites who have no regard for the worsening social conditions of the ordinary people,” political analyst Vivid Gwede said.

“It is a far cry from the virtues of solidarity, public interest and community central to the liberation struggle and agenda.

“There is a wealth hoarding mentality and regard only for self and family among those who should be shepherds of the people.

“The anti-corruption drive should not be about sound bites or internal Zanu-PF fights, but radically returning the country on the visionary path envisaged by those who fought for independence.”

Gwede said Zanu PF had transformed into a kleptocratic regime characterised by widespread forms of primitive accumulation.

“Corruption and ludicrous opulence among regime-aligned politicians have been maintained via state capture and elitism whilst the ordinary citizens are in abject poverty,” he said.

“Worse still, officials involved in corruption through state capture are being shielded by the presidency.

“By using the parliamentary processes and existing whistle blowing systems, citizens are duty bound to ensure that corrupt cartels and officials are held to account.”

Asked what the ruling party was doing to stop its members from abusing public funds Zanu PF party spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa gave a curt response saying the party abided by the Constitution.

“Remember we are drafters of the much acclaimed 2013 constitution,” Mutsvangwa said.

“It carries provisions, mechanisms and machinery to deal with corruption. It mirrors and is a product of the party’s stance on corruption.”

Earlier this year, photos of Mutsvangwa and his wife  Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa  that were captured while they were on holiday in Canada after  attending their son’s graduation in that country went viral on social media.

Most children of Zimbabwe’s political elites in Zanu PF get their education in Europe, shunning local public schools that have vastly deteriorated in quality over years of perpetual neglect. They suffer a wide range of challenges including non-existent learning material, lack of infrastructure including classrooms and teachers’ houses and an untenable student-teacher ratio.

Citizens Coalition Change (CCC) spokesperson Fadzai Mahere condemned the abuse of state resources by Zanu PF political elites.

“Elite state capture in Zimbabwe has led to over US$2 billion being lost annually to illicit financial flows. Corruption has further caused 49% of the population to live in extreme poverty,” Mahere said.

“The money that is looted by Zanu PF elites should be used to fund hospitals, schools and improve food security.

“Under a Citizens’ government, the nation’s resources will be leveraged for the many and not the few.”

Corruption is a vice widely believed to be stalling development in Zimbabwe.

When he took over power in a November 2017 coup, Mnangagwa disbanded the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) board accused of perpetrating corruption and appointed a new team, ostensibly to effectively fight graft.

Mnangagwa went on to establish a Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) in his office as proof of his determination to fight graft.

But despite the existence of all these anticorruption institutions, the country continues to lose millions of United States dollars from graft with very few convictions.

Yet well-connected politicians, their proxies and kith and kin continue to live in obscene opulence while ordinary citizens live on the verge of starvation.

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