MINISTER Joram Gumbo, who was questioned and released yesterday, appears in court today on charges of criminal abuse of office involving US$37 million arising from four separate incidents when he was Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
He was arrested yesterday morning and spent the day being questioned by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) at their Mount Pleasant headquarters before being released in the evening to spend the night at home before coming to court today.
Gumbo, now the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs (Monitoring and Implementation of Government Programmes), gave his warned and cautioned statement to ZACC yesterday.
ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda Moyo confirmed the arrest and Gumbo’s scheduled court appearance for initial remand today.
In the first of the alleged incidents, Gumbo is accused of corruptly facilitating the awarding of a US$33,3 million tender to Indrastemas & Homt Espana of South Africa for air traffic control equipment without following the procurement procedure.
He allegedly authorised the company to supply the equipment to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) without going to tender.
Secondly, Gumbo will have to answer to charges of showing favour to his relative, the politician Mavis Gumbo, by awarding her a contract to rent out her house to Zimbabwe Airways.
As part of the deal, it is alleged Gumbo directed the release of US$1 million for the refurbishment of Ms Gumbo’s property and customising it into the airline’s headquarters.
The house is located at 1436 Gletwin, Shawasha Hills, just south of Glen Lorne and about as far from the airport as you can be in Harare, and the charges will be that Government lost U$1million in refurbishing the property and Ms Gumbo received huge amounts of money in monthly rent from a Government investment.
Thirdly, Gumbo stands accused of corruptly reinstating CMED chief executive Mr Davison Mhaka despite a disciplinary tribunal finding him guilty of misconduct after he authorised payment of US$2,7 million to a fuel company for the supply of fuel that was never delivered.
Despite the tribunal finding Mr Mhaka guilty and his subsequent dismissal by the CMED board, Gumbo intervened and directed his reinstatement without explanation.
Fourthly, Gumbo is accused of disregarding the decision of the CAAZ board to fire its general manager Mr David Chawota after finding he had awarded the air traffic control equipment contract to Indrastemas &Homt Espana without following laid down procedure.
Political scientist and public policy analyst Mr Teddy Ncube said the latest arrest showed Government’s commitment to fighting corruption and also showed ZACC with its new powers of arrest was gaining relevance and independence.
“The arrest of Minister Joram Gumbo should be analysed within the context of the new dispensation’s reform trajectory,” he said. “Of importance is the message that no-one is above the law.
“If a high profile figure like Hon Gumbo can be arrested, it is safe to say that our justice system is undergoing serious changes in the right direction. There are very few cases in our history where such a huge political name can be arrested whilst in office.
“As such, this further proves how ZACC is gaining relevance and distinguishing itself as an independent organ.”
Harare-based lawyer Mr Obert Gutu said Gumbo’s arrest reignited the focus on high level corruption because of late, there appeared to have been a moratorium on arrests by ZACC ever since it was given arresting powers.
“We will only get to know about the exact details when he is formally brought before the courts of law,” he said. “The criminal justice delivery system is benchmarked on the fundamental principle that every accused person is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved by a competent court of law.”
Mr Gutu said the public now expect the prosecuting authorities “to put all their ducks in a row”.
“We don’t want a situation whereby the relevant law enforcement agencies arrest in order to investigate,” he said.
South African-based law expert Mr Tendai Toto said the initiative to fight against corruption was real, but the completion of the process was problematic. He said there has yet to be a completed case of corruption, that is cases ending in acquittals or in convictions with appropriate sentences and other associated remedies.
“Also of note is that it takes two to tango,” said Mr Toto. “The fight against corruption is disrespected by the lack of evidence and witnesses coming forward in fear of reprisals and or exposing themselves as accomplices.”
Mr Toto said there was a need to bargain with witnesses, affording them immunity and adequate protection in the high profile corruption cases in order for the State to secure credible and reliable witnesses.
Head of the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) Mr Thabani Mpofu said: “I cannot comment on individual cases as they arise, lest I be misconstrued. Suffice it to say that the fight against corruption continues unabated and it will continue for as long as this scourge afflicts our society.”