A legislator has taken the looting of funds from the private Africa University to parliament through an upcoming question and answer session.
Politicians said three other universities claimed donor money vanished from their accounts. The Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s children studying in Australia were deported by the Australian government 3 years.
Parliament’s order paper states that Misheck Kagurabadza, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will ask Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education Stan Mudenge if he is aware that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe withdrew money from the Africa University Public Sector Management Programme forex current account and did not reimburse the university.
Kagurabadza will also ask Mudenge if he could inform parliament when the money will be refunded "so that the programme can resume its normal operation".
In an interview, Kagurabadza confirmed his intention to question Mudenge on the raiding of university foreign currency accounts. Africa University, a private institution connected to the Methodist Church, failed to respond to questions asking about the amounts involved.
Two legislators involved in the parliamentary education portfolio committee told University World News that three other universities had also approached them saying that donor money for different projects had disappeared. They could not give details before tabling the matters in parliament as per procedure.
The looting of foreign currency accounts, which happened before the formation in February of an inclusive government involving former opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is now Prime Minister, and Mugabe, is not limited to universities.
Recently Hivos, a Dutch development organisation, said it was demanding repayment from the Reserve Bank of a total of EUR90,000 (US$120,000) which it said has not been accounted for from a total of EUR300,000 taken from its account by the central bank. The organisation has since opened a new bank account in Botswana.
Last year, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria said EUR5.64 million was missing from its bank account in Zimbabwe. The money has since been returned.
On 18 April, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, a member of Mugabe’s inner circle, admitted raiding foreign currency accounts. Gono defended the action, saying it was done to save the country from "maximum danger" due to difficulties arising from western sanctions.
He also admitted in a statement to purchasing 29 vehicles for three state universities – Great Zimbabwe, Midlands State University and Chinhoyi University of Technology – using foreign currency in expenditures that were outside of the budget.
The Governor said this was necessary to retain skilled staff. "It is hoped that those now in the relevant authorities play their reciprocal part in ensuring that all our creditors who are owed money are repaid," Gono said.
The raiding of private accounts has in part contributed to western countries declining to release financial aid that is needed to restore basic services such as education.
To underline the urgency of donor support needed by universities, Professor Levi Nyagura, Vice-chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe – which has been closed since February – said it was appealing for US$3.2 million to enable the institution to reopen.
"Without the funds, all other things cannot move." Water problems had been a major concern as the institution had not had supplies since May last year, Nyagura said.
Last week, Britain pledged an immediate £15 million (US$22.3 million) humanitarian aid package for Zimbabwe’s unity government. But International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said "no UK money will pass through government of Zimbabwe systems or through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe". (Univesity World News – Africa Edition)