PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed that one of his top aides demanded R5 million from a prospective South African investor, reflecting the challenge he faces to rid his administration of graft that had become endemic under his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa made the stunning disclosure while addressing central committee members on Wednesday.
He said his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra has been appealing to foreign investors because it sends a message that things have changed, but corrupt activities have spiked, with some party and government officials charging investors money to facilitate meetings with him and government ministers.
“I have introduced the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ policy and it has been attractive, informing investors that we have opened up the country for business and changed on the way we were doing our things,” Mnangagwa said.
“This has generated interest among investors. They have been coming, wanting to do business in the country, but other people are now asking huge amounts of money from them to facilitate meetings with the President and ministers.”
He added: “Some people say to the investors, ‘before I take you to the President or minister, pay me some money’. I have been told that one investor was charged R5 million to come see me.”
“The investor was told that three quarters of the money would go to the President and the (fourth) quarter will be given to the person who will fix the meeting. When I eventually met the investor in South Africa, he told me that he had been asked to pay R5 million to meet me. Corruption, corruption, corruption, down with corruption!” Mnangagwa barked.
The southern African country is rated as one of the most corrupt on the planet, occupying 157th out of 180 countries in the 2017 ranking by watchdog Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Mnangagwa told ruling party officials that corruption was ravaging government and immediate action was needed to clean up the country’s investment climate.
“If you shun corruption, you will stay and stay with us in the party, but if you are corrupt, you will be fired,” he warned.
Mnangagwa took over power in a coup in November 2017 before winning the disputed July 30 election against opposition MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa who says the vote was stolen.
He set up an anti-corruption unit based in his office, but its credibility has been tainted by allegations that it targets Mnangagwa’s political foes, mostly members of the G40 faction aligned to Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Mnangagwa has pledged to fight corruption in his “second republic”, and several former ministers who served under Mugabe have been charged with corruption.
Former Energy minister Samuel Undenge has been convicted of issuing a $12 650 contract without due tender to a company that did no work, and was sentenced to four years in prison. He has appealed both the conviction and the sentence.
Former ministers Walter Mzembi, Ignatius Chombo, David Parirenyatwa and Saviour Kasukuwere all have pending cases before the courts, in what analysts view as a crackdown on officials loyal to Mugabe.