Calls for minister's axing over student fund abuse claims

Zimbabwe’s Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo is facing a probe over the alleged abuse of approximately US$450,000 meant for students in a development that has seen students calling for him to pay back the money and resign.

The fund in question is the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund, or ZIMDEF, established through an act of parliament to fund human capital development. Among others, it finances students on industrial attachment programmes. The Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe contributes 100% of the fund.

While a citizen has reportedly approached the High Court for an order directing the police to arrest the minister for abusing ZIMDEF, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, or ZACC, is investigating Moyo and his deputy, Dr Godfrey Gandawa, in connection with the alleged abuse of the funds.

However, the commission has no arresting powers, as the country’s laws restrict it to making recommendations to the police.

According to a charge sheet prepared by the anti-graft commission, Moyo is alleged to have used part of the money to fund cronies in his constituency as part of a bid to regain his seat in the 2018 general elections.

Gandawa, his deputy, is alleged to have formed a company that benefitted from the student funds as universities were directed to buy equipment from his firm.

Student demonstrations

Zimbabwe National Students Union Secretary General Makomborero Haruzivishe told University World News last week that students would in due course start a wave of demonstrations to ensure that the minister pays back the money and resigns.

He said levels of corruption at higher education institutions were alarming. He alleged that students’ monies were used to sponsor “regime and ZANU PF programmes”.

“We are clear that this habitual looting of ZIMDEF is not only sabotage of higher and tertiary education in our country, it also has corrosive effects on the welfare and dignity of the students of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Students on attachment have been reduced to slaves… They have been pauperised and their livelihoods, morality and welfare are now rudimentary. Due to the aforementioned issues, a large number of students have resorted to drug abuse and prostitution. This is a venomous recipe for our future. We cannot continue with things as if business is normal.

“Thus we are demanding not only that Minister Jonathan Moyo resigns, we are also demanding that he pays back the money so that it can be used for its proper functions.”

He said students will unleash demonstrations in order to achieve their demands.

Calls for urgent dismissal

Zimbabwe Congress of Students Unions President Tonderai Chidawa told the state-run Herald newspaper that Mugabe should fire Moyo.

“We urge the president to fire Minister Moyo as a matter of urgency,” Chidawa was quoted as saying.

“We do not condone the abuse of state funds, especially the money meant to assist underprivileged students at universities and colleges. We also urge state apparatus, namely, the army, Central Intelligence Organisation and police to step in and protect ZACC and whistle-blowers in this matter.”

Employers are understandably not happy over the alleged abuse of funds.

In a statement, the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe said it was outraged and dismayed by the alleged looting of the fund.

“ZIMDEF as a public institution must apply the funds for the purpose for which it was established and it should not be allowed to operate outside its mandate,” the statement said.

Meanwhile a Harare vendor has approached the High Court for an order directing the police to arrest the higher education minister.

'No selective application of the law'

Hardlife Mudzingwa said in court that he had previously been arrested for illegal vending in Harare and there must be no selective application of the law.

“I make that plea as a citizen and a subject of the state for whose benefit the Constitution was enacted. I demand a law that applies equally to everyone regardless of political persuasion or position in the government or in a political faction, real or perceived,” he said.

A judge is yet to rule on the matter.

The minister has claimed the funds were used as part of legitimate corporate social responsibility programmes. His deputy declined to comment.