President Robert Mugabe has no capacity to deal with the issue of obscene salaries and corruption at parastatals, since he is captive to army generals running the state enterprises. These are the words of former GNU minister of state for public enterprises and parastatals, Gorden Moyo.
Moyo told The Zimbabwean at the Southern Africa Political Series in Harare recently that cabinet ministers were partners in crime and chief executives at parastatals were too strong for Mugabe since they were from the military.
Cabinet ministers reportedly received luxury and off-road cars on top of other lucrative allowances from parastatals.
Moyo said parliament would rubberstamp decisions made by the generals after being consulted by Mugabe for advice.
According to Moyo, the generals and other military personnel deployed at the state enterprises helped Mugabe retain power when he lost to the MDC-T president, Morgan Tsvangirai, in the 2008 elections.
This left Mugabe at the mercy of the military from where “he would seek political advice at every turn”.
“Mugabe and his cabinet were aware of the obscene salaries and the rot at state enterprises, but had their wings clipped by the generals,” said Moyo, pointing out that during the GNU, Mugabe once expressed anger at revelations by the media that bosses at some parastatals were earning over $18,000 a month.
Moyo’s ministry reportedly recommended to parliament that the salaries be cut to no more than $5,000 a month.
Irregularities by four unnamed cabinet ministers, three Zanu (PF) and one MDC, were revealed to the media.
The former minister said that, following the media briefing he organised, he was phoned by then deputy prime minister, Arthur Mutambara, advising him of Mugabe’s bitterness about the media reports on the irregularities.
Mugabe later advised then prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, to deal with his MDC minister while he (Mugabe) promised to deal with the three from Zanu (PF). No disciplinary measures were taken against the accused.
The abnormal salaries were deliberately designed to reward the army personnel at the parastatals for propping up Mugabe, Moyo maintained.
He said people only saw the outrageous salaries paid to the bosses at the state enterprises, not the double salaries paid to middle and low-ranking soldiers to avert mutiny.
More than 2,000 soldiers were deployed at the Grain Marketing Board while thousands others were at the National Railways.
Moyo said: “The soldiers would also earn salaries at the respective parastatals allowing for double dipping.” He said the arrangement was deliberate and done with the full knowledge of responsible ministers.
Politicisation, nepotism and the military factor at the state enterprises were blamed for Mugabe’s ineffectiveness when dealing with the rot.
Both the ZANLA and ZIPRA command structures were said to be alive at the parastatals.
Moyo started debate
Efforts by Moyo to deal with the irregularities through Bills of Parliament, such as his proposed State Enterprises Restructuring Agency Bill, reportedly died a death at the attorney-general’s office.
The corporate governance document proposed during the GNU never saw the light of day despite having been launched by Mugabe.
Moyo commended Zanu (PF) minister of information, media and broadcasting services Jonathan Moyo for initiating the debate around irregularities at the state enterprises, but doubted if the minister would achieve anything beneficial to the nation out of the issue.
“Jonathan did good to start the debate but unfortunately he can only go so far,” Moyo said.
There were suggestions by Moyo that a commission along the lines of the Sandura, which investigated the 1990s Willovalle scandal, be commissioned.
The commission would take its reports to parliament and work with an instituted parliamentary committee for state enterprises.
Former Zimbabwe minister of education Fay Chung largely blamed incompetence on the part of parastatal bosses for the irregularities.
She said competent and experienced senior staff at the state enterprises were given golden handshakes to pave the way for partisan officials.
“This created top posts for the incompetent and inexperienced military bosses at the important institutions,” Chung said.
She said the situation was worsened by the lack of supervision and institutionalised looting at the parastatals.
Justice Leslie George Smith, former chairman of the commission of enquiry into parastatals (1986-1988), said government should root out its workers from state enterprises’ boards to tame irregularities.
He however, expressed hope that Jonathan Moyo would push for a conclusive end to the issues in the parastatals.
“Moyo knows that government’s failure to deal with the suspects will cost him his integrity and credibility,” said Smith. During his chairmanship, Smith said people were appointed to state enterprise boards on merit.
A database would be created to register competent and skilled people for various posts at parastatals.
Political analyst and former chair of the parastatals commission (1988-1990), Ibbo Mandaza, said corporate governance collapsed in Zimbabwe and there was serious collusion to loot state enterprises.
“Now, government only does damage control rather than addressing the scourge since corruption is pervasive from top to bottom,” Mandaza said.
He said there was no way salaries and other perks for top officials at parastatals could be authorised without the knowledge of Mugabe and the responsible ministers.
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans from across the political divide and all walks of life remained pessimistic that parastatal bosses who allegedly abused their offices would face justice.