In its short years as the Zimbabwean first family, the Mnangagwas have fared quite sorely in one area. Choosing good friends.
You will naturally remember Draxgate, the scandal that rocked the royal family to its toes. Collins Mnangagwa was/is friends with Delish Nguwaya. Delish still has a date with the courts for trying to cheat the taxpayer out of big millions by pretending that he was part of an international outfit specialising in medical things, Drax. The formal courts will take their sweet time to finalise his case. Not so with the vigilant court of public opinion.
This one does real time prosecutions. It convicted Delish on the very day the public prosecutor called the media reported on his shenanigans. And then, you see, this court lacks the discipline to limit its focus to one case. It has also convicted and sentenced the first family in absentia. It used the evidence it garnered through the social and media platforms.
At one time, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was seen in the company of Delish. We didn’t know then, but he was admitted to State House because he is family friend, courtesy of Collins. The president was both dumb and numb on this one. Without being provoked, he hailed Delish for making multi-million donations to Zimbabwe. We know, of course, that Delish never made such donations. That young dude is a liar if that will get him to where the money is hiding. That’s what the court of public opinion has concluded.
Which president does what President Mnangagwa did by admitting Delish to State House without first running background checks on him? What if Delish would toss some poison into his “I-am-the-Boss” mug. Surely, the president doesn’t want to be rushed to South Africa with torn innards again, like what happened that other time when Robert Mugabe was still in charge.
But there is a less sympathetic view in the court of public opinion. Let’s have it as a question—or questions. What if President Mnangagwa knew about all the shenanigans that Delish was brewing? What if he knew that Delish was working in cahoots with Collins and others to milk millions from the taxpayer pocket? There are other, worse, “what ifs”, but let’s leave it at that for now.
Just recently, we heard that the first wife—same thing as first lady, just in case you get it wrong—Auxilia Mnangagwa has three friends in their home town of Kwekwe. They are called Pinky Sibanda, Cynthia Kangoli and Perseverance Zhou. Zhou is actually a senator. The four own shares in a company called PPAC. In registering that company, Auxilia conveniently forgot to use the family name, preferring her maiden Kutyauripo.
Well, who cares about that bit? It gets messy when you hear that Pinky, Cynthia and the not so honourable senator were included on a list of very poor people who were supposed to receive money from a US$25 million Covid-19 chest. You see, when the president decreed a lockdown in late March and rumour started spreading that there would be plenty money to cushion people whose income would be disturbed by the forced closure of their business, some people started having big dreams. They saw an opportunity to loot, just as they always do when money or other goods are availed for public benefit.
There are no two ways to explain it where Pinky, Cynthia and Dishonourable Zhou are concerned. They must have started salivating. The point is, they all knew that they were on the list. Throw away any other mumbo jumbo they will give you about it. In fact, Senator Zhou has already admitted that she knew. Of course, she let things keep that way. What’s even more worrying here is that the first lady might have probably known that her business pals were on the list fraudulently. For how can you regularly meet for and chat about your joint venture without the other three asking the powerful Auxilia that they are looking to harvesting some manna through the Covid-19 fund?
Even if Auxilia didn’t know, it doesn’t matter anymore. The court of public opinion is convinced that she knew, so she, like the other three, has been tried, sentenced and convicted without recourse to appeal. Like her husband in Draxgate, she is an accomplice.
That aside, there are other bad things about the Kwekwe list. Around 6,000 poor and small traders applied so that they would get the money in the absence of honest jobs. Less than 500 made it into the final list. A big number among those that succeeded were people who didn’t deserve the poor man’s money because they had steady sources of income. Who gets surprised by that? Zanu PF took over the application process. They always do it that way in the ruling party. Kwekwe is predominantly an opposition city. That’s how the majority of the people didn’t make it. Around 5,500 of them. Those that made it were handpicked by Zanu PF functionaries. That makes the list a Zanu PF list.
You also shudder to think what has happened with Covid-19 lists throughout the country. Kwekwe is a small city, by the way. It has 200,000 people, plus or minus. Harare, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo have millions of people, most of them informal traders for want of jobs. What we have heard is only about a small city. What about the rest?
The Social Welfare ministry that was supposed to handle the list, together with its local office in Kwekwe, didn’t do its job. Instead, the scaled down, partisan list was foisted on them. This is no lie. Larry Mavhima, the minister, said so without having to be chained in leg irons. He admitted—innocently or dishonestly—that they were supposed to do a better job.
That brings us to the next point. Mavhima said his ministry would look into the matter and audit the list. Dishonourable Zhou also said she would ensure that, finally, he name is taken off the list. We don’t know much about what Pinky and Cynthia are saying, but they must do the right thing too and get off the list pronto.
We will wait to see if those that made promises will honour their promises. Mavhima must act, and act fast. All those that don’t deserve the Covid-19 fund must be removed and deserving people brought in, if there is any more money to talk about. And those that got the money undeservedly must return it. Above all, President Mnangagwa must find time to talk to his wife and his subordinates about this. Last but not least, the first family must go to grooming school so that its members know how to tell good friends from bad ones.
Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org