Higher education minister and deputy accused of fraud

Zimbabwean police arrested Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Jonathan Moyo and his deputy, Godfrey Gandawa, on Wednesday for allegedly misappropriating around US$450,000 from a manpower development fund that finances students, among other activities. The politicians were questioned and released.

According to local media, Moyo will appear in court soon.

Days before his arrest the minister – a former politics professor at the University of Zimbabwe and researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, which accused him of embezzling research funds – issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

He blamed his woes on succession fights in President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF. The minister claimed his “persecution” was being driven by the country’s vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who wants to succeed Mugabe.

However, main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and the country’s biggest student union, have said the minister must have his day in court and, if found guilty, repay the allegedly looted Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund, or ZIMDEF.

ZIMDEF was established through an act of parliament to fund human capital development. Among other things, it finances students on industrial attachment programmes. The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe contributes 100% of the fund.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba said: “Those named in the ZIMDEF case are expected to appear in court any time from now.”

The case

According to a charge sheet prepared by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Moyo is alleged to have used part of the ZIMDEF money to fund cronies in his constituency, Tsholotsho, as part of a bid to regain his parliamentary seat in the 2018 general elections.

The minister is also alleged to have been given a US$24,000 loan from ZIMDEF that he used for funeral expenses following the death of his daughter last year in South Africa, where she was studying at the University of Cape Town. The loan was later paid back.

Deputy Minister Godfrey Gandawa is alleged to have formed a company that was used as a conduit to steal student funds.

Earlier this week, ZIMDEF Chief Executive Officer Fredrick Mandizvidza appeared in the Harare magistrate's court facing allegations of fraud and abuse of office. The matter was postponed to 17 November.

Prosecutors said that although ZIMDEF does not have provisions for personal loans, Mandizvidza and accomplices processed a loan of US$24,000 on 19 October last year for the higher education minister.

It was also alleged that on 11 November last year, Mandizvidza connived with a ministry official, who is on the run, and allegedly created a fake document purporting that the trustee of the fund – Jonathan Moyo – had authorised the purchase of 10 heavy-duty printers worth US$95,800.

The court heard that no such authorisation was granted, and after the money was released nothing was delivered.

Ministerial denial

On Tuesday, Moyo issued a statement saying the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission allegations against him were false, malicious, political, tribal and factional, and an unjustified and illegal attack on his ministerial and parliamentary responsibilities.

“In particular, the computers, bicycles and motorcycles that I donated for distribution in Tsholotsho North were above board in the exercise of my ministerial discretion to address a clear and present need in this marginalised and impoverished community,” he said.

He added: “All monies rendered for funeral assistance by ZIMDEF which had been initially indicated as a donation and subsequently entered in the records of ZIMDEF books as a loan, were returned by me in full notwithstanding the fact that there is a long-standing practice within ZIMDEF to cater for such circumstances of bereavement.”

The minister further alleged he had evidence of shocking and scandalous cases of high-level corruption, theft, fraud and pillaging of state resources and assets by high-ranking people who speak against corruption by day and practise it to staggering degrees at night.

He said he would bring the information to the attention of the relevant authorities at the earliest opportunity.

According to a recent Transparency International report, Zimbabwe is losing at least US$1 billion to corruption annually. Earlier this year, Mugabe shockingly revealed that US$15 billion in revenue generated from the sale of diamonds had disappeared without trace. To date no investigations have been carried out despite a public outcry.