Corruption at centre of Zim arrests

Investigations by Zimbabwe's Anti-Corruption Commission into corrupt government ministers linked to indigenisation deals and other cases of graft are at the centre of the arrests that shook Zimbabwe's fragile unity government this week, the Mail & Guardian can reveal.

Following a peaceful referendum last Saturday, there was shock in political circles when the police arrested prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa for allegedly obstructing the course of justice and four Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials for impersonating the police. It has emerged that three of the four MDC officials are former state prosecutors.

Government officials are so rattled by the investigations that they have roped in intelligence, police and army officials – who Zanu-PF sources say are running a "parallel government" – to halt the probe.

Investigators at the commission this week said dockets that could have led to the arrest of seven top allies of President Robert Mugabe and senior officials in the attorney general's office are linked to the arrests.

Officials arrested
The investigators said the four MDC officials had been arrested because they were helping the investigating team to compile the dockets. Two investigators told the M&G that fears are running high at the commission's Harare headquarters after the arrests. Investigators said they were advised by police that investigating ministers and police chiefs is "tantamount to plotting a coup".

The investigators said they are not sure how their dockets were leaked to the police and the people under investigation. They said the police are anxious to know who is behind the probes and who had supplied them with information. The investigators told the M&G they were probing:

  • Attorney general Johannes Tomana for criminal abuse of office after he allegedly halted investigations into the abuse of constituency development funds (See "Commission told to delay funds probe until after election", Page 4). It was the commission's view that calling off the probe was highly irregular.
  • The purchase of numerous suburban properties by Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo under hazy circumstances. The investigators were considering whether the minister abused his position to influence the Harare city council to award him several properties in the city.
  • Transport Minister Nicholas Goche for allegedly giving work to Motify Investments, a company involved in road construction in Matebeleland province, which did not go out for tender. The investigators were considering allegations that Motify was paid before it began the project. The investigators say Motify is a company created from Twalumba, which was lambasted by a parliamentary committee last year for a shoddy road construction job in Mashonaland central.
  • Police commissioner General Augustine Chihuri for selectively applying the law and targeting political opponents. The docket allegedly contains a list of correspondence that implicates him.

Tension heightened
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment. Contacted for comment Goche said: "Why are you asking me those things? Get away." He then hung up.

Chombo's phone went unanswered.

Tomana's secretary who identified herself as Miss Chavhunduka promised to come back with a comment but had not done so at the time of going to print.

Investigators said that tension had heightened after the commission sought a court order last week to search the offices of Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu, Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Goodwills Masimirembwa, who chairs the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. The allegations, they said, were that the three received kickbacks through consultancy company Brainworks Capital. Brainworks was appointed as consultants in various multimillion-dollar empowerment deals that did not go out to tender and allegedly raked in $34-million in fees.

A registrar of the high court, Elijah Makomo, was fired this week for allegedly facilitating the signing of a search warrant that led to 20 investigators storming three government premises in search of crucial documents that could have implicated those involved in the kickback scandal. The investigators were subsequently asked by police to leave "government properties".

"We really don't know how that information leaked," the investigators said. "It was never our intention to immediately arrest them. But we were acting on credible information – documents that had been supplied by credible sources."

Last Thursday morning, acting on state intelligence information, Chihuri ordered the officer commanding Harare province, assistant commissioner Clement Munoyirarwa, to organise a crack team to raid the homes of the former prosecutors and the MDC officials who allegedly supplied information that helped the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to prepare its dockets. In a predawn raid on Sunday morning, six heavily armed teams –each made up of two heavily armed members of the police support unit, two detectives and a superintendent – searched the homes of Thabani Mpofu, Felix Matsinde, Mehluli Tshuma, Warship Dumba and Anna Muzvidziwa, who were allegedly supplying information to the commission.

Leader of the MDC Morgan Tsvangirai said he expected the police to behave as they had: "When change is about to happen, such behaviour becomes normal. In 2000, when the people rejected Constitution proposals in a referendum, what happened two weeks after? Land invasions and violence ensued."

Who is in charge of Zim?
Sources within Zanu-PF's politburo and government have told the Mail & Guardian that the army and the police are now a power centre and are seemingly running the affairs of the party and the government.

Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa's release was ordered by the court, but her lawyers – Selby Hwacha, Thabani Mpofu and Harrison Nkomo – said that every police officer who was shown the high court order refused to obey the order, saying that they were "seeking advice from above". "The police were noncommittal," Nkomo said.

Mtetwa was arrested at Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) official Thabani Mpofu's house (not advocate Mpofu), where she argued with the police who were searching his home.

A member of the politburo who asked not to be named said that the police's refusal to release Mtetwa after a high court ordered her release upset Vice-President Joice Mujuru because such actions don't augur well for the party or the government, as any unjust actions of the police tend to blemish the party leader and, ultimately, the government. But the Harare Magistrate's Court on Wednesday denied Mtetwa bail effectively ignoring the high court order. She was remanded until April 3.

Sources close to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said that when the court order for Mtetwa's release was defied early on Monday morning, it prompted him to seek a meeting with Mujuru and the police commissioner, General Augustine Chihuri.

Mujuru was the acting president because President Robert Mugabe was attending the inaugural mass of Pope Francis in Rome.

Those privy to the deliberations said Mujuru was "genuinely shocked" by the police's behaviour, but said she needed clearance from Mugabe to act. Mujuru reportedly also said she understood her limitations to deal with the "forces behind the arrests and felt too weak to act". Chihuri did not attend the meeting.

Sources have also told the M&G that key government decisions that have a bearing on state security and conduct in dealing with political opponents are being co-ordinated by the army and police, with little or no input from Mugabe. This week they said the main fear within the group of hardliners was that Mugabe was too weak to protect their interests, and was giving too much space to the opposition ahead of the polls.

"Certain decisions are being made without his knowledge. The arrests of civic group leaders, and even having court orders being defied, are political decisions being made by a power centre outside the framework of Mugabe's sphere of control," the source said.

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