Billion dollar fraud charges levelled against defector

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Dumiso Dabengwa, who defected from Mugabes’s Zanu PF recently faces an investigation on abuse of billions of Zimbabwean dollars.

from our correspondent in Harare

The audit appears to have been prompted by Dabengwa’s recent defection to join Dr Simba Makoni in his campaign against tired 84 year old Robert Mugabe in the forthcoming presidential election slated for March 29.

On the sudden allegations, Dabengwa says he was not scared by the prospect of an audit of the books since government officials, including Mugabe himself, were fully briefed on the Zambezi Water project issue.

“Why should they waste their time raising issues about the MZWP?” Dabengwa said. “They know what happened. I told them. Even the President knows what was happening on the ground. I do not have anything to fear because I told them the truth and I shall stand by that truth.”

Dabengwa two weeks ago jumped ship to join Makoni in a move that has been a cause of concern in top Zanu-PF circles who are said to be contemplating defection of their own, should Makoni win the presidential election.

Since the advent of the water project, Dabengwa has been at the helm of the water project from inception. The project has, however failed to take off in earnest, leaving the Matabeleland region poorer given that the project was initiated as the answer to the region’s perennial water shortage.

Before Dabengwa’s defection, the ruling party had turned a deaf ear to calls for an intensive audit into the affairs of the project whose original plan dates back to 1912.

Sources in Zanu PF say there were fresh attempts to open an investigation into the books of the project – an audit that could deal a severe blow to Dabengwa’s political career, if he is incriminated in any act of misconduct.

If found guilty of embezzling funds, the former ZIPRA intelligence supremo risks being thrown behind bars for serious fraud and abuse of office, the sources said.

“It’s a tricky situation for Dabengwa. There are plans that have been laid on the table to start looking at the (MZWP) books that he had for long held onto without granting access to anyone else,” said one source.

“There is new found conviction within Zanu-PF that Dabengwa did embezzle funds from the project because of the reasons why he had failed to release the books for an audit that would have proved whether or not there was embezzlement.”

It was revealed that there was concern over an array of funds that were released by various donors, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) included – funds that were meant to facilitate the launch of the project.

The Mugabe government, long accused of insincerity in handling the plight of the people of Matabeleland, had since 2000 dangled the Zambezi Water Project as a carrot to lure voters in Matabeleland. The central bank is said to have poured billions of dollars into the project.

In his defence, Dabengwa says the funds that his board received from various quarters had been “chewed up by administrative and overhead costs”, leaving the project implementation process in a shambles due to what he describes as insignificant funding.

He claimed that there was need for the Zimbabwean government to seek deals with international donor organizations who would pour in substantive and significant amounts of foreign currency that would sustain the project until its completion. He said such advice had fallen on deaf ears as government policy contradicted the very requests and advice that he had made to it.

Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, writing under his pseudonym Nathaniel Manheru, in the government mouthpiece, The Herald, also added oil to the raging fire on Saturday.

He claimed that the masses were anxious for an audit into the books of the MZWP. Charamba’s column sometimes reflects official Zanu-PF thinking on issues the party does not want to officially express opinion.

Said Charamba: “Then you have the swelling waters of the mighty Zambezi, in the form of the water project. Bad things are being said there, warranting a full-blown investigation and audit. The (private media and the) Financial Gazette thinks Zanu-PF does not know how to handle Dabengwa.”

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