Brenna Matendere

THE Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) has castigated the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) as well as the Local Government ministry for failing to act on a two-month probe which revealed growing cases of graft at Gokwe Town Council.

The investigation was conducted by The NewsHawks in partnership with Information for Development Trust, a non-profit organisation supporting investigative journalism in Zimbabwe and southern Africa.

corruption

The investigative story, published in May this year, revealed that minutes of council meetings, resolutions by the local authority and interviews with council officials placed the acting town secretary Alexander Nyandoro at the centre of the rot at the local authority that includes allegations of siphoning of thousands of dollars.

Nyandoro was accused by councillors and corruption watchdogs of illegally pocketing US$45 000 after he billed the local authority for the use of his personal car eight years before he was appointed acting town secretary.

He claimed the money from the council in September last year. Nyandoro was appointed acting town secretary in November 2021 after the then Local Government minister July Moyo fired Joseph Mandlokuwa under a cloud.

In a statement released on 17 October, ACT-SA said besides the probe by The NewsHawks, it had also carried out its own probe which ascertained the findings and put them forward to Zacc and the Local Government ministry.

“ACT-SA is gravely concerned with the inaction by relevant authorities that has left accused persons at Gokwe council bragging about how connected they are which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for any action to be taken against them,” reads part of the report.

Munyaradzi Bidi, the director of ACT-SA Zimbabwe chapter, urged the relevant authorities to take action.

“We are also plunging ourselves into a very dangerous situation in which people who commit corruption go around boasting that no action will be taken against them because of connections with high-profile persons. I hope you still remember a time when the same local authority procured river sand from Harare and transported it to Gokwe. This is unbelievable but it happened. We are demanding action right now,” Bidi said.

In addition, Obert Chinhamo, the ACT-SA regional director added that the failure to take action against people alleged to be dabbling in corrupt activity is disturbing, considering the abundance of evidence.

“I also don’t understand why it is difficult (for Zacc and Local Government ministry to ask the local authority (Gokwe Town Council) why it paid Nyandoro US$45 000 for mileage when there was no such arrangement with the former town secretary of the local authority,” Chinhamo said.

Nyandoro refused to comment and referred questions to council spokesperson Brian Kapfumvuti, who defended the acquisition of the vehicles by the town secretary, saying it was part of his working conditions.

“The acting town secretary bought the BT50 in terms of his contract of employment and council resolutions,” Kapfumvuti said.

“His substantive post is that of chief administrative officer. About the Ranger, the council bought the car in terms of his contract and council resolutions.” Thandiwe Mlobane, the Zacc spokesperson, said the organisation did not act on the corruption reports at Gokwe Town Council because the email used by ACT-SA to submit a formal complaint was not in use.

“Let me check where the zimbabweanticorruption@gmail.com  goes to. I will get back to you. Upon further enquiries, it seems the email that was used is unknown to Zacc: I have been told that some of these emails were creat ed a long time ago and in particular this one. And I am sure Zacc no longer uses Gmail for emails. That has since been stopped, I think,” Mlobane said.

ACT-SA, however, insisted that Zacc received the complaint since it was also sent through to the commission’s WhatsApp hotline number.

Nyandoro had been touted as the broom that would sweep Gokwe clean, but the investigation showed that the situation had deteriorated on his watch.

Local Government ministry communications director Gabriel Masvora said his chief director would call this reporter to explain the inaction over the corruption at Gokwe Town Council, but no calls were received.

“Checking with the respective department if they have anything latest… My CD is calling you to explain the issue . . .” Masvora said.

The thorny issue revealed in our investigation centred on the 16 September 2021 council resolution in which the acting town secretary allegedly arm-twisted the council, which was back then dominated by the MDC-Alliance, to pass a resolution to pay him US$45 000 for the use of his personal car.

He also acquired a Mazda BT50 double cab vehicle from the local authority for US$5 000 and also got a Ford Ranger that was bought for US$60 000 by the cash-strapped local authority after another controversial council resolution in November last year, according to council minutes in our possession. Nyandoro used his Mercedes-Benz E-class between 2013 and 2015 when he was still council’s chief administrative officer.

He charged council US$60 a day for two years after arguing that car hire companies would have demanded US$150 a day for the same car, council minutes show. In its statement this week, ACT-SA made several recommendations as a remedy to the Gokwe Town Council stormy issues. ACT-SA said:

“The Acting Town Secretary (Mr Alexander Nyandoro) should be investigated and made to refund the full amount of US$45 000 which he was wrongfully and unlawfully paid as mileage for the use of his personal Mercedes-Benz vehicle for work-related errands, yet the use thereof was not approved by the former Town Secretary, there were no logbooks found to confirm the same and also that the local authority had a vehicle that was available for him to use instead of using his personal vehicle.

“The Acting Town Secretary (Mr. Alexander Nyandoro) should also be investigated for wrongfully and unlawfully claiming a Mazda BT50 allocated to the Council Chairperson (Resolution 870/15) to be given to him as part of his contractual benefits as if it had been bought for him yet he was not entitled to the vehicle in view of the old organogram.” ACT-SA also recommended that the former acting town secretary (J. Mandhlokuwa), before the appointment of Nyandoro, should be investigated and charged for failing and/or neglecting to advise councillors to make proper decisions in his former capacity as the Acting Town Secretary.

“The former Acting Town Secretary ill-advised councillors to pass resolution  1279/21 that was used to prejudice the local authority of a Mazda BT50 given to the current Acting Town Secretary Mr. Nyandoro,” said ACT-SA.

This story was commissioned by Information for Development Trust (IDT) and published by Newshawks.