REPEATED allegations of corruption around President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his family are eroding the credibility of his anti-corruption campaign and further tearing apart the integrity and legitimacy – or what
is left of it – of his government, analysts say.
Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia and son Collins are reeling from corruption allegations after they were named in the Henrietta Rushwaya case in which the former Zimbabwe Football Association CEO tried to smuggle six
kilogrammes of gold from Harare to Dubai a week ago.
The case is now in the courts and has sucked in state security agents, who were allegedly behind the unprecedented security breach at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport that included the switching off of CCTV cameras to allow Rushwaya’s contraband to pass undetected.
Auxillia has denied involvement in the smuggling attempt and this week pushed police to issue a statement clearing her and Collins’names.
The Mnangagwa family, police and Zanu PF, as well as their supporters, have launched a hysterical campaign of denial in a bid to deflect attention away from the president’s family.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba on Thursday took to Twitter to threaten independent news platforms, including The NewsHawks, that are reporting on the criminal syndicates implicated in the smuggling of precious minerals.
Charamba claimed there was a plot to link Mnangagwa to an alleged Mutare precious minerals dealer David Crosby, who was recently arrested by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit, over a different case.
“The latest efforts led by agents of hostile foreign interests is seeking to enlist the services of at least three online news interests, among them foreign funded The NewsHawks and ZimLive led by Dumisani Muleya and Mduduzi
Mathathu respectively,” said Charamba, who uses the pseudonym Jamwanda on Twitter. “We keep watchful,” he warned.
The Rushwaya gold smuggling case became the second major scandal where members of Mnangagwa’s family were
mentioned among the alleged masterminds.
Early this year Collins was linked to a US$60 million scandal involving an obscure company that tried to supply the government with Covid-19 medical equipment at inflated prices.
Mnangagwa was forced to fire his close ally Obadiah Moyo as Health and Child Care minister after it was revealed that he played a key role in facilitating the doggy Drax International deal. Collins’ alleged close associate Delish Nguwaya, who is the Zimbabwe represantative for Drax International, was arrested over the scandal.
Nguwaya has been pictured at different places with members of Mnangagwa’s family on the back of claims that they have close ties. Collins has denied that he is friends with the controversial businessman.
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the University of London, said the corruption allegations against the Mnangagwa family had the potential to soil the president’s legacy, citing cases of leaders in the region that were
humiliated after leaving office because of crimes committed by their families while they were still in power.
Chan said the president has to learn from his predecessor Robert Mugabe’s last days in office where his family was drawn into multiple corruption scandals, leading to his embarrasing fall.
“The high profile cases of corruption surrounding a neighbouring president occurred in Angola,” Chan said.
“Cases have been brought against the former first family by a new president from the very same party. In the fullness of time, no one remains immune forever.”
One of the reasons given by the military to justify a coup against Mugabe in 2017 was that a number of his top allies were plundering the country’s resources through corrupt schemes.
A number of Mugabe loyalists were hunted down by the military during the coup, forcing them to escape to countries such as South Africa and Kenya.
Mnangagwa made fighting corruption one of his major assignments when he took over from Mugabe, but critics say it has now become clear that the anti-graft crusade is targeted at his political foes while the president’s inner circle enjoyed a free rein to loot.
Ibbo Mandaza, the head of think tank Sapes Trust, said Mnangagwa must appoint an indepent commission to investigate high profile cases if he wanted his anti-corruption crusade to be taken serioulsly.
“One way that the leadership of this country can absolve themselves and allay fears and rumours that are circulating, is to set up an internationally acclaimed commission of inquiry,” Mandaza said.
“This commission would also investigate everything from (the looting of) diamonds to present (day scandals). If they are serious and they want to stop the rumour mongering, they should set up this commission.”
Piers Pigou, a political analyst, said Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption fight has been soiled by politics, leading to the selective application of the law.
“The government continues to claim that there is no tolerance to corruption, but there are very strong perceptions that it is a selective game and there are processes of catch-and-release, ”Pigou said.
“The anti-corruption efforts are not designed to go after the big fish. I think the challenge is the absence of a credible investigative body that can go after the highest offices in the land and that includes elements in the presidency, the (Office of the President and Cabinet).”
About 20 civil society groups this week issued a statement decrying the government’s failure to deal with organised criminal syndicates in the wake of Rushwaya’s arrest.
“We are deeply concerned that criminal syndicates have spread their tentacles to major minerals like gold, diamonds and black granite,” the groups said.
“We are equally concerned about the culture of impunity that characterises cases of grand corruption or those involving the illegal exploitation of mineral wealth by political elites.”
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has been accused of only targeting Mnangagwa’s opponents when pursuing graft cases.
One of the controversial cases handled by Zacc involved former Transport minister Jorum Gumbo, who was arrested late last year for alleged criminal abuse of office after he allegedly authorised renovations of a relative’s house to the tune of $1 million before the property was turned into the headquarters of Zimabwe Airways.
Gumbo, a staunch Mnangagwa ally, was released on the same day he was arrested and the case went cold. There are also several top Zanu PF officials and ruling party financiers, who have been implicated in corruption scandals, but
have never been charged by Zacc.
Zanu PF early this year fired its youth commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu after he released a list of senior party officials and financiers whom he said were behind organised crimes that were weighing down on the economy.