Revisiting History: Sandura Commission on Willowvale Scandal early signs of a flawed justice system in Zimbabwe

    By Roy Muroyi (Khuluma Afrika)

    In recent years we have seen the police ignoring the court’s rulings and carrying out the despot leader’s orders  . In a clear sign that the justice system in Zimbabwe has been rendered useless the situation has turned to be of that of the police against the people with the police defying the courts’ rulings and severely punishing innocent civilians for expressing their democratic right to demonstrate.

    The president of the republic has continuously spoken about respecting the rule of law when it suits him and his party. Such a charade has seen the Movement for Democratic Change and other civil organizations failing on a number of occasions to take to the streets and express their democratic right to demonstrate against government misrule. It is imperative to note that this circus has long been allowed in Zimbabwe and is part of the “king’s hold on power” Through allowing corruption and patronage that compromises the justice system Mugabe has made strides in consolidating his power to be the “only capable leader for Zimbabwe”

    Fed up with corruption in the Zanu Pf government, Edgar Tekere went on to form the opposition party the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM). This was after Robert Mugabe with the help of his Zimbabwe Republic police crushed student demonstrations against government corruption in September 1988. What Mugabe failed dismally to realize was that his image had already been tainted by corruption such that by 1993 corruption had loomed government parastatals and in the public service it had reached epidemic proportions.

    By all party standards then, it had proved difficult to the extreme to keep leaders committed to the idea of an austere socialism indeed more ominously to common legal rational principles of administrative conduct and accountability. Zimbabwean ministers, politicians and bureaucrats had succumbed to the temptation to use access to political office to benefit and build themselves as wealthy political patrons.

    In the late 1980s, Zimbabwe was rocked by the Willowvalle car scandal which proved to be the worst corruption scandal ever to be experienced in this country. The need to create a one party state made Mugabe ignore corruption at the highest level of government. The one party state that Mugabe had attempted to create through forcefully swallowing Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu had proved to be a pain in the “tummy” because of corruption. Nevertheless Mugabe seemed to gain political mileage from the corruption of the day as he kept on pardoning his ministers that were found guilty of corruption instead of punishing them. This is the root of corruption that has led to the total collapse of the economy today.

    By 1989, Zimbabwe was still one of the most successful countries in Africa, but as successful as the country was, getting to work for an ordinary citizen especially in Harare was a night mare. The Peugeot 404s that were used in those days were always full and buses were very scares on the road. The ordinary citizens could not import cars even if you had the money to buy a car, you simply could not get a car on the market.

    Willowvalle Motors was the only official car importer in the country and for you to purchase a car you had to be on a very long waiting list under Willowvalle Motors. The reason behind the long list was virtually unknown to the ordinary citizen. The reason was simple though, Zimbabwe simply did not have the foreign currency to import vehicles. Zimbabwe was one of the most strapped for foreign exchange.

    The country besides being the bread basket of the African continent at that time simply had no foreign exchange. The reasons for this was the fact that  the government had decided to pay off its foreign debt on schedule, rather than stretching out interest and principal payments over a longer period, as have most other African countries. This was a reasonable policy considering the country was doing well economically at the time.  In the year 1988, more than 33% of its $1.8 billion in foreign income went to pay off debt. The country’s coffers were further drained by oil imports and a highly trained military which many did not understand its significance.

    Zimbabwe came to a halt one morning in October 1988 when the Geoffrey Nyarota edited Chronicle in Bulawayo carried this headline “CARS RACKET” .Under this headline, a businessman by the name of Obert Mpofu in Bulawayo had made brought to the attention of the paper documents that reviewed the highest level of corruption Africa had ever seen. This gave Nyarota and his Deputy Davison Maruziva the scoop that was going to change the face of Zimbabwe for many years to follow.   Under pressure President Mugabe had no option but to set up a commission of inquiry under Justice Wilson Sandura which was to be known as the Sandura Commission of Inquiry and the whole motor scandal dubbed the “Willowgate Scandal”.

    The Willowagate scandal became the exiting point of some ministers from Zimbabwean politics, after being found guilty of breaching the law that governed the buying and selling of second hand cars. The reason behind the shortage of the cars was found to be this unorthodox buying and selling of cars by government ministers who had the privilege to buy cars and skip the long waiting list at Willowvalle Motors under the guise that they were using the cars for official business.

    The Sandura commission fingered many Zanu pf officials such after ridiculous amounts of moneys and suspicious transactions were found in their bank statements officials such as Josiah Tungamirai were fingered and admitted to their crime without perjury. Some of the ministers implicated and the sum of moneys they could not account for under the inquiry include Inos Nkala bought a car for Z$ 29 000 and sold it for a whooping Z$90 000 and was also charged with perjury after he had lied to the court under oath. Maurice Nyagumbo (Z $11 500 ), Fredrick Shava , Callistus Ndlovu allegedly purchased a motor vehicle for Z $22 087 and resold it for Z $65 000. Mark Dube , the then  Matebeleland South provincial Governor  allegedly purchased a vehicle for Z $24 000 and resold it for Z $80 000 to one Mr G Scultz. Enos Chikowore is said to have  used his position as Minister of Local Government and Urban Development to assist his personal secretary, Alice Sakupwanya and her friend Esther Gupo to buy two Nissan Sedans.

    Perhaps the biggest looter’s award goes to Fredrick Shava whom the commission described as a” car dealer”, Shava made about $70,000 in a year. Beside the fact that  Mugabe went on to grant a pardon to those implicated  perhaps as part of his political policy of granting favors to those around him so as to keep them forever indebted to him as suggested by Edgar Tekere in his biography “A life Time of Struggle”.

    Maurce Nyagumbo went on to commit suicide. Perhaps Nyagumbo knew that this was some ploy by Mugabe to keep him at bay since he will forever be indebted to Mugabe if Mugabe had pardoned him. Another school of thought suggests that Nyagumbo never committed suicide but his death was stage managed by state agents. Reports suggest that Nyagumbo might have been implicated by the commission but rumor has it that he was playing a front for Sally Mugabe who was said to be looting cars to Ghana and South Africa.

    Sally’s driver back then Ray Kaukonde even made a fortune through the scandal as he is said to have gone behind Sally’s back to buy cars for him and also sold them at those exuberant prices. The recent public embarrassments directed to Ray Kaukonde from the first lady Grace Mugabe are said to have originated from these days. It is said that Kaukonde who was Sally’s driver worked as Sally’s spy , spying on Grace and Mugabe’s “office relationship”. Kaukonde now a rich businessman in Marondera is said to have made a killing behind Sally’s back just as Nyagumbo had done. Unfortunately for Nyagumbo he had threatened to take down Sally with him.

    According to Todd (2007) Zanu pf’s corruption had started earlier, as early as 1983 Zimbabwe witnessed the Paweni Scandal but was again swept under the carpet with Kumbirai Kandai being pardoned after being inmplicated. The scandal saw the government lose $6 million after Samson Paweni won a tender to transport maize to the drought affected parts of Zimbabwe. Paweni had won the tender because he had strong Zanu pf links.  Funds that were meant to buy maize were diverted to pay Paweni’s hefty transport charges. Kumbirai Kangai was implicated in the scandal but was again pardoned by Mugabe.

    Instead of punishing corruption, Mugabe has continuously used corruption as a way of buying loyalty amongst his Zanu pf cadres. Again the Sandura inquiry was made to be a mockery of the justice system of Zimbabwe as it produced nothing meaningful in terms of dealing with corruption but was rather used as a way of consolidating Mugabe’s power. Those implicated in the scandal were pardoned the only people who really lost their power political mileage are the two heavy weights Nkala and Nyagumbo who were also potential threats to “The king’s throne”.

    Today the police force continues to be used as Mugabe’s weapon for crushing democracy. They continue to overrule the court’s rulings and enforce Mugabe’s orders.

    Roy Muroyi is a pro- democracy promoter, A strong activist who believes in Youth Emancipation in all facets of governance and he writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on [email protected] Article appears on Khuluma Afrika

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