As millions of Zimbabweans struggle with unemployment, their 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe is busy rewarding his family members and protégés with big government jobs, where they end up looting colossal amounts of money.
Last week, the country woke up to the news that the veteran president had appointed his own daughter, Bona Chikore Mugabe, to the country’s media censorship board.
Although the Minister of Home Affairs, Ignatius Chombo, insists that he was the one who proposed the appointment, pundits have argued that President Mugabe put his daughter in the board to ensure more restriction of negative press.
According to Zimbabwe’s Censorship and Entertainment Act, the censorship board is mandated to regulate and review any article, picture, painting, publication, video, or audio that is likely to undermine morality, nudity, decency, among others.
So, with the ongoing anti-Mugabe revolt by a section of Zimbabweans, who are calling for his resignation, it appears that the now frail president wants to use her daughter’s influence at the board to clamp down on the media, which has of late been very critical of him and his family.
It is also being reported that President Mugabe has become wary of his close friends, including fellow colonial veterans and members of his party Zanu-PF, which is currently suffering from internal squabbles as leaders outdo each other with the hope of succeeding Mugabe.
Corruption and Embezzlement
Many experts have often blamed the increasing cases of mega corruption and embezzlement of public funds in Zimbabwe on the blatant nepotism and patronage by the elderly president.
Mugabe’s protégés in government have continually been accused of looting and corruptly distributing public resources, including food donations meant for the starving families in the country.
In June last year, well-placed Zanu-PF sources revealed to the media shocking details of how government officials were looting drought relief rice that had been donated by China. They said some of the rice was being dished out to Zanu-PF supporters at political rallies across the country as a reward for being loyal.
In 2015, the Zimbabwean Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa was accused of illegally withdrawing $100,000 from the country’s troubled Public Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS), the national health insurer, for his medical treatment.
But in his response to the calls to sack Mr. Parirenyatwa, President Mugabe said he would be jumping the gun if he budged into private affairs between PSMAS and its membership. Sadly, Parirenyatwa is still the minister of health.
The looting is so rampant that even Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has been adversely mentioned in a corruption scandal, where he is accused of withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) as a board member.
No action has been taken against him even after he confessed to the crime.
Some of Mugabe’s critics now refer to him as the godfather of Zimbabwe’s looting mafia.
Ironically, this runaway corruption is happening at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy is on its knees, with the government being forced to replace the valueless local currency with bond notes.
The “looting mafia” has left the public coffers empty, making it hard for the government to finance its operations. What’s worse, Mugabe has refused to retire despite his advanced age.
He even claims that he will continue to rule the country from the grave.
At this point, it is not clear what can be done to save Zimbabwe from total collapse, especially with Mugabe at the helm.