By Mutsa Makuvaza
FORMER Zanu-PF bigwig Walter Mzembi has accused the Government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa of trying to re-write history after State-owned media wrote that President Mnangagwa is set to be the first person given the honour of the Freedom of the City of Victoria Falls when it is declared a city on December 9.
“This is inrecognition of his contribution to the resort town’s transformation,” the State-owned Herald reported this Saturday.
Mzembi, who is a former tourism Minister, rubbished the report and said it was himself and then Vice President Joice Mujuru who were the first in post-independent Zimbabwe to earn the accord from Victoria Falls back in 2013.
Mzembi said the resort town bestowed the honour on himself as the main organiser of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly which Victoria Falls successfully hosted that year.
“That honour (of Freedom of the City) for the record was jointly offered to me and Joice Mujuru post UNWTO General Assembly in 2013 in recognition of the work we did for Victoria Falls,” said Mzembi on Saturday.
“(Robert) Mugabe advised otherwise arguing public officials should not be accorded such honor… chief of the area honored me his way,” Mzembi added, without offering further details regarding the nature of his honour.
In a related matter, Mzembi said that it was not good policy to have cities bestow such honours on a sitting Head of State and Government as it could trigger a stampede by all other towns and cities to do the same.
“A President of a country has inherent freedom of cities which go with the office no need for investitures. (Zanu-PF is) triggering a race by all cities similar to the PhD degrees fiasco in universities,” said Mzembi.
He was referring to the manner in which President Mnangagwa amassed an avalanche of no less than twelve honorary universities in 2018 alone after his election victory.
Zimbabwe, with 16 state universities, has a law which automatically makes the Head of State the Chancellor of all the State universities.
Mzembi, however, got entangled in a web of corruption following his involvement in the UNWTO hosting organisation. In 2011, Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to co-host the 20th UNWTO Conference in August 2013.
Government assigned Mzembi to come up with various ways to raise money for hosting the conference. Mzembi engaged two people – Sussana Makombe Kuhudzayi and Aaron Dzingira Mushore – as consultants to carry out fund-raising activities on behalf of his ministry.
Kuhudzayi and Mushore formed a consultancy company called Conventions Africa and Mzembi using a Government letterhead wrote letters requesting donations.
Corporates responded positively and Mbada Diamonds donated US$815 000. Using the money, the pair bought a two Ford Ranger T6 double cabs for US$52 493,00 and US$53 683 and a Ford Ranger double cab for US$44 534.
Court records show that Sangarwe took possession of a Ford Ranger T6 (registration number ACU 6801) and did not surrender it after the conference. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) later investigated the matter, the vehicle was recovered and Sangarwe was charged.
Kuhudzayi took the other Ford Ranger T6 (ACU 3707) contrary to Government procedures. She sold the vehicle to one Grey Hama and was later arrested.
Mzembi took a Ford Ranger (ACU 7946). In March 2013, Mzembi approached Mimosa Mine through its chairman, Mr Winston Chitando, who donated a Tata Xenon double cab (ACX 5409) for use at the conference.
When President Mnangagwa came into power, Mzembi fled into South Africa with the State accusing his relative and lawyer Job Sikhala, an MDC-A top official, of aiding his escape from justice. – Zimbabwe Voice ■