As he celebrated his 93rd birthday yesterday, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe brushed aside persistent allegations of corruption against senior officials, saying rumour-mongers were merely targeting “big fish” in his administration.
In comments due to be aired on state media yesterday, the world’s oldest state leader said he would act if shown evidence – even though graft scandals involving ministers and even members of his own family are regular fare in local newspapers.
“I think the big fish, more of it has been talk, talk and talk. People have not come out and actually said here is a case against a big fish,” Mugabe said in the pre-recorded interview.
“Or are people afraid to come out and even come to us and say, ‘This one is stealing so much, investigate the person?’ If there is evidence, we will pursue that evidence and certainly we will deal with those persons.”
Despite the almost daily slew of scandals involving state tenders and contracts reported in Zimbabwe’s free-wheeling private media, investigations are rare and arrests are even rarer.
The anti-corruption commission is currently fighting the higher education minister and his deputy, who are accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a state fund. They deny the charges.
Parliament has also penned several reports recommending investigations into irregular tender allocations, including at several state-owned firms.
The reports have been ignored. Transparency International said in October Zimbabwe ranked poorly on corruption and was losing at least $1-billion (R13.15-billion) annually to corruption, with police and local government officials among the worst offenders. – Reuters