Zimbabwe commission told to delay funds probe until after election

Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission  investigators allege that there is political pressure on them to halt their investigations into the abuse of constituency development funds (CDF) by ministers and prominent legislators until after the elections.

Two commission investigators told the Mail & Guardian there was political pressure from those implicated, who had allegedly sought an audience with the attorney general to postpone the probe. The investigators said they had been advised by their superiors that investigation must cease until after the elections.

They said all the MPs subject to their investigation were contesting forthcoming parliamentary elections.

"Just when we were about to request arrest warrants, we got a directive to halt all investigations and arrests," an official said.

Gross abuse of funds
Another investigator said that the investigation had revealed gross abuse of funds across the political divide. "There are very few clean people, within all parties."

Commission officials allege that attorney general Johannes Tomana wrote a letter in March last year to the ministry of constitutional and parliamentary affairs to halt investigations until a complete audit was done in all constituencies.

In a letter dated March 5 2012, Tomana advised the accounting officer at the ministry of constitutional affairs that there was a need to "fairly deal with results of the ongoing CDF audit which has given rise to investigations and arrests currently being handled by [the] commission". Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said that he was shocked by Tomana's letter.

"You don't wait to prosecute a thief that has stolen in the supermarket pending other investigations," he said. "I don't get it. Some are saying I'm doing this to victimise other MPs because I'm leaving government. I don't understand how the element of victimisation comes in. The issue relates to the abuse of funds, which had nothing to do with me," he said.

Intending to leave the government
Matinenga has indicated his intention to leave government when his term ends to rejoin the Bar at Advocates' chambers in Harare.

Investigators said the abuse of funds they uncovered related to legislators who:
• Produced fake receipts of development that was not carried out;
• Gave invoices of developmental work done by non-governmental organisations, but presented these to investigators as projects funded through the CDF;
• Deposited CDF funds into their personal accounts;
• Funded personal projects using CDF funds;
• Connived with constituency­members to abuse the funds; and
• Did not co-operate with commission investigators or did not live up to their promises to provide proof of documentation for work done.

Since the funds were introduced in 2010, four legislators have been arrested in connection with abuse.

Three belong to the Movement for Democratic Change party linked to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and only one is aligned to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. They are: Albert Mhlanga (MDC-T), Marvellous Khumalo (MDC-T), Cleopas Machacha (MDC-T) and Franco Ndambakuwa (Zanu-PF). Ndambakuwa's charges were withdrawn, but the MDC cases are still pending.

Investigators said they believed their probe was halted to protect legislators who risked losing their seats if they were exposed.

The commission's dockets, seen by the M&G, name ministers in both Zanu-PF and the MDC. The names are known to the M&G but cannot be revealed for legal reasons.

The funds were introduced to allow legislators to bypass bureaucratic red tape by giving them quick access to money for local projects.

In his 2009/10 national budget speech, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the funds were meant to fund "the construction of boreholes, the repair of schools and clinics, the purchase of electrical generators and building of market stalls", among other projects identified by local communities.

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