A corrupt Robin Hood? Mugabe's ex spin-doctor faces corruption allegations

Jonathan Moyo (file)
Jonathan Moyo (file)

Harare - It was the timing of Jonathan Moyo's 'flu’ attack that was suspicious.

Just as corruption allegations against Zimbabwe's higher education minister were getting louder this week, he was suddenly laid low with 'flu’.

Such bad 'flu,’ in fact, that he couldn't attend the opening of parliament on Thursday, he tweeted.
 
Was it really 'flu’? 

Or was it, as more than a few wondered, that he was scared of being pounced on by officials from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC). For the last three weeks, they have apparently been keen to interview the minister over claims he misused up to $270 000 from a government fund meant for students?

Few with any knowledge of the internal wrangling for post-Mugabe power in Zimbabwe's ruling party doubt that Moyo and his mates' arch-rivals in Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa's "Team Lacoste" faction put ZACC on his case.

In a fight that's intensifying as Mugabe becomes ever more doddery, Team Lacoste has scented an advantage.

Moyo knows that. In the last couple of days, he's fired off a string of tweets clearly aimed at Mnangagwa and his allies, calling them "murderers" and "stinking tribalists". 

With the bravado that rarely fails him, Moyo said he'd rather be compared to Robin Hood, the 14th century British outlaw who legend says robbed from the rich to give to the poor. 

Read the tweets below

But the allegations against Mugabe's former spin doctor are deeply damaging.

According to the official Herald newspaper, they include a claim that through his deputy Godfrey Gandawa, Moyo was able to take $85 000 from the taxpayer-funded Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) and use some of it to buy bicycles for his Tsholotsho constituency. 

The pair are alleged to have also been involved in the withdrawal of nearly $96 000 from the fund for the purchase of 3D printers.

There's also a claim that (again through Gandawa) Moyo took out a personal loan of $24 000 from the fund last October. 

The allegations are fuelling anger in troubled Zimbabwe, where the fight against state-sponsored corruption has been the main thrust of the seven-month-old #ThisFlag protest movement.

A spokesperson for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said Moyo was making "ridiculous excuses" and should be told "straight in his face" that stealing was stealing.

Meantime Zimbabwe's main student union Zinasu has threatened "determined campus shutdowns" if Moyo and Gandawa aren't arrested for corruption, the Herald says.

Will Mugabe stand by Moyo?

Zinasu president Makomborero Haruzivishe told the paper (currently in the hands of Mnangagwa's faction, let's not forget) that the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund money was supposed to go towards students, particularly those on industrial attachment - and that just hasn't been happening. 

Many also sneered at Moyo's Robin Hood claim. 

Prominent social media activist @maDube_ said:  "A clever Robin Hood would buy medicine for our hospitals."

Moyo has many enemies. 

No-one in the media fraternity - or at least in the independent media fraternity - will ever forgive him for AIPPA, the repressive regulations signed into law in 2002 that saw foreign correspondents kicked out and dozens of local reporters arrested. 

He's also earned a reputation as a political turncoat after he was booted out of Zanu-PF in 2005 and then re-admitted several years later, despite his criticism of Mugabe in the interim.

But then as now, Mugabe values Moyo's ability to spin.

Several media outlets have already reported that Mugabe blocked Moyo's arrest earlier this week.

That was allegedly because Moyo told the president that he used some of the money to stage the Million Man March, that massive gathering of Zanu-PF loyalists (and less-willing villagers) in Harare in May that so boosted the ageing president's ego.

Mugabe was out of the country on Saturday, with speculation a one-day official trip to Malaysia may have morphed into a stopover in Singapore.

Will he continue to stand by Moyo when he gets back? Probably.

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