Resign or be fired, students urge acting HE minister

Zimbabwean students have called for the resignation of Higher Education Minister Ignatius Chombo, who is being investigated by a graft commission. They have also resolved to support Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the presidency in upcoming national elections.

Chombo, who took over the portfolio after the death of previous minister Dr Stan Mudenge last year, has been in an acting capacity, as President Robert Mugabe will not appoint a new substantive minister until after the elections.

The country’s Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating Chombo after a number of graft accusations, and the Zimbabwe National Students Union, ZINASU, said he should resign or be fired by Mugabe on the grounds that he was unfit to hold the portfolio.

They also said they would be supporting Tsvangirai, leader of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in his presidential ambition and would mobilise students and the population to vote against Mugabe in national polls that must be held before 29 June.

Students also previously supported Tsvangirai, who as leader of the MDC in 2008 outpolled Mugabe. However, Tsvangirai withdrew from a run-off election due to massive violence inflicted on party supporters by Mugabe’s security forces.

Other African leaders pushed for the formation of a unity government in February 2009, in which Tsvangirai became premier and Mugabe stayed on as president. The unity government is coming to an end and the two are set to resume their rivalry at the polls.

ZINASU said it was “gravely concerned by the calibre of Ignatius Chombo”.

“This man has failed to run his own ministry. He is [allegedly] marred by massive corruption and has been fingered in many corruption scandals, some involving the unprocedural purchase of council land,” it added.

“This contravenes the principles of basic logic and only suffices to say that Chombo is not fit to lead universities and colleges.”

Chombo is accused of illegal land deals that resulted in the city of Harare, the capital, losing large swathes of its land. He was also named in a scandal involving the purchase of buses for a state bus company.

In a previous court case, his estranged wife claimed he was dealing in diamonds.