- VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is in the eye of a storm after some of his close allies allegedly demanded bribes from under siege commercial farmers trying to seek audience with the top Zanu PF official.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
It is understood that some of the VP’s associates devised a way of profitably making use of their links to him to charge people seeking audience with him.
Mnangagwa last night said the culprits would face the full wrath of the law.
“I don’t do that . . ., tell the police to arrest them, they are thieves who are abusing my good name. Please tell the police to get them arrested. It’s bad. I will not tolerate such things,” he said.
One of the victims, Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) chief executive officer Hendrick Olivier told NewsDay last week the officials openly demanded bribes ranging from $500 upwards when farmers sought meetings with Mnangagwa.
Olivier said he was a victim of the scam himself amid fears more farmers could have been coerced to part with large sums of money to meet President Robert Mugabe’s second in-command.
“I must say from the outset that I cannot blame the Vice-President for what happened or claim that he is part of it but two officials who work in his office openly demanded for a ‘brown envelope’ with a minimum $500 to which I responded that I did not have,” he said. “I also told them that it is not the way I operate.”
The CFU boss said he wanted to meet Mnangagwa to discuss continued disruption of farming activities at white-owned commercial farms around the country by suspected Zanu PF supporters.
Olivier said he had officially requested to meet Mnangagwa before he received a call on July 2 that the VP was ready to meet him at 08:15 that same day.
“I had and still have a standing official request to meet the Vice-President. I still await my chance to meet him,” he said.
Olivier said when he got to Mnangagwa’s office, two men (names supplied) demanded $5 000 before he could meet the VP. He said Mnangagwa’s secretary appeared to know the men.
“It became clear as time moved that she was aware and knew the two men. I was asked to stay downstairs, but after two hours I gave up,” he said.
On Friday, one of Mnangagwa’s aides confirmed that there was a “white man” who visited the VP’s offices recently.
“He came here last week in the company of two guys known as Tonde and Maburutse, who are members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (Zicosu),” the aide who declined to be named said.
“But he did not have an appointment with the Vice-President. The Vice-President has two offices here at the Ministry of Justice and at Munhumutapa Building so I am not sure which of his secretaries Olivier is talking about, we move around a lot, but I know him as an official of the Commercial Farmers Union.”
Efforts to track Tonde and Maburutse were fruitless.
Sources said a group of Zanu PF activists a few weeks ago invaded some farms whose owners approached officials in Mnangagwa’s office for assistance.
The farmers were reportedly asked to part with $5 000, but ended up paying $2 000 to get the Zanu PF functionaries removed.
Impeccable sources said the official claimed to have phoned Mnangagwa, as well as “very senior military and police officials” in the presence of the affected farmers.
“An order was then issued and within hours the invaders had been pushed out of the farms,” the source added.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services ministry principal director Regis Chikowore described the allegations as “very serious”.
“These are serious allegations that you as a paper need to verify the veracity of. You cannot take what he (Olivier) says as fact on the face of it because as of now I am not even sure it happened,” Chikowore said.
“However, if he was serious and sure that it happened as you are saying, he should have made a police report.”
Mnangagwa, who is one of Mugabe’s longest serving lieutenants having been drafted into the country’s first Cabinet at independence 35 years ago, was appointed VP following a Zanu PF congress last December.
He took over from the country’s first female Vice-President Joice Mujuru who was sacked from her positions both in the ruling Zanu PF party and government following a plethora of allegations among them extortion, corruption, bribery and plotting to assassinate Mugabe.
However, Mujuru has denied all the charges levelled against her and challenged her detractors to take the matter to court.
Mnangagwa is now seen in the ruling party circles as front-runner to take over from 91-year-old Mugabe whose over half a century political career is in its sunset period.
Mugabe recently warned Zanu PF youths against using names of senior party leaders for financial gain. Suspended Zanu PF Harare provincial youth league chairman Godwin Gomwe is facing trial for allegedly extorting over $46 000 using First Lady Grace Mugabe’s name in the capital.Newsday