A tale of two ministers

HARARE – One cabinet minister is accused of corruptly amassing wealth, including farms, companies, mines and real estate,while the other faces allegations of manipulating tenders for yet-to-be-quantified private gain.

The one accused of short-circuiting tender procedures is arrested. Being a member of a party trying to oust the "Dear Leader", he got picked up two weeks ago for allegedly awarding a $6-million fuel supply contract to two South African companies, Mohwelere and NOOA, without going to tender.

The high court judge who dealt with his case in a bail application says the charges were based on "scant facts" and stand no reasonable prospect of success at trial.

The minister was granted $5000 bail and is due to appear in court for trial tomorrow.

The same minister was again arrested on Friday for allegedly ordering the cancellation of a tender involving the purchase and supply of prepayment revenue management system . His case was remanded by the magistrate’s court to July 18. 

His name is Elton Mangoma, Zimbabwe’s Energy and Power Development Minister, who belongs to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party.

The one who is very wealthy, but who faces serious allegations of corruption, remains a free man, despite intensifying complaints by taxpayers and government officials, including Tsvangirai, to Mugabe about his excessive riches.

The minister’s wealth has become testimony of primitive accumulation in Mugabe’s corrupt and incompetent regime. The minister in question is Ignatius Chombo, who is in charge of local government.

Chombo belongs to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. He comes from the president’s home region and is seen as one of his cronies.

This is a tale of two Zimbabweans, ministers working in the same government and facing allegations of corruption, which, however, differ in extent and quantum involved. The main difference between them is that they belong to two different political parties, hence their unequal standing before the law.

The cases of Chombo and Mangoma and how they are being handled is a manifestation of what is wrong with Zimbabwe. The trouble with Zimbabwe is simply and squarely a lack of good leadership. It’s a problem of corruption and hypocrisy. A glaring lack of good governance, transparency and accountability, coupled with a huge democratic deficit.

Mangoma was first arrested on March 10 over the controversial $6-million fuel supply deal. It is alleged he awarded the contract without it going out to tender. Mangoma allegedly gave a contract to NOAA which works closely with Mohwelere in violation of tender procedures. 

The agreement was to supply Zimbabwe with five million litres of fuel. It was signed between Zimbabwe’s PetroTrade and South African companies, Mohwelere and NOOA in January in the midst of growing shortages in the market.

However, Mugabe and his Zanu-PF section of government claim Mangoma breached tender procedures in awarding the contract. This led to the minister’s arrest two weeks ago, although he was released on a $500 bail on Tuesday last week.

High Court judge Samuel Kudya said the minister might have done the right thing the wrong way as he was responding to an emergency situation. He said the state had relied on "scant facts" in arresting the minister and the case had dim prospects of success when trial begins tomorrow.

Mangoma has blamed Mugabe for his arrest, saying it was "malicious" to arraign him because he had cleared the issue in cabinet on March 1 and also before Mugabe in a one-on-one meeting on March 3.

Just as Mangoma was thinking he would emerge from court a free man tomorrow, disaster struck. He was arrested again on Friday on new charges. This time the minister is being accused of manipulating a tender for the supply and delivery of a prepayment revenue management system.

It is alleged that after he was transferred from the Ministry of Economic Development to Energy and Power Development, Mangoma cancelled a tender on smart metering awarded to Solahart and gave it to a company called Vas-X Technology.

It is alleged the minister had a conflict of interest and by inference had something to gain.

By contrast Chombo has been accused of being engaged in corrupt land deals at the Harare city council. The mayor Muchadeyi Masunda has publicly complained about it. Councillors have reported Chombo to the police. Tsvangirai has approached Mugabe over the issue. Residents and ratepayers are complaining.

Despite growing calls for Chombo to be arrested, or at the very least investigated over his disproportionate wealth, which includes at least 15 vehicles and more than 20 houses, nothing is being done.

The Chombo and Mangoma cases graphically illustrate what sort of a country Zimbabwe has become: a latter-day version of the Orwellian dystopia, Animal Farm.