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Top Govt officials face arrest as vehicle import scam explodes

Several top officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce face imminent arrest over corruption allegations involving fraudulent issuance of vehicle import licences as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC)’s dragnet closes in.

It is understood the corruption allegations have disturbed government.

So far, one ministry official, Andrew Matevere, has been arrested for fraudulently issuing more than 350 vehicle licences. Matevere has since appeared in court. There are suspicions that Matevere was working in connivance with several top officials in the ministry.

ZACC has widened its investigations. The identity of the top officials under probe could not be revealed for fear of jeopardising investigations.

ZACC spokesperson, John Makamure confirmed the crack team was now investigating several top officials at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

He also said the Commission would also target the private sector.

“The Commission will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the rot in government entities and the private sector is rooted out. Corruption is prevalent in both the public and private sectors contrary to public perceptions that it’s only prevalent in the public sector,” Makamure said.

The latest developments come after the government banned the importation of second-hand vehicles beyond 10 years from manufacture.

The ban came amid revelations that about US$1.3bn was spent on imported buses, light commercial and passenger motor vehicles from 2015 to September 2020 despite the existence of capacity by the local motor industry to assemble the specific range of motor vehicles.

The directive was issued under the recently gazetted SI89 of 2021.

The government directed the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to issue out import licences.

But, the issuance of licences by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce provided some loopholes which saw officials fraudulently issuing import licences for vehicles that did not fit in the prescribed categories.

It is understood that there was a cartel within the ministry involving the top brass that had been issuing vehicle import licences even for vehicles that did not qualify.

ZACC has since intensified its investigations into the matter, with some ministry’s top brass facing imminent arrest.

It is understood that the ministry’s top brass was using the ministry as a feeding trough – issuing tenders without following proper procedures and without proper checks.

It is also said several directors at the ministry have been contracting various suppliers on goods that were never supplied but invoices were issued and paid.

For example, a supplier for boardroom furniture was given a contract and was paid but the furniture is still to be delivered.

Consequently, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce was now holding meetings at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development boardroom.

This prompted Industry minister Sekai Nzenza to question the lack of zeal on the part of the ministry’s directors and the accounting officer to provide necessary office equipment.

ZACC is looking at various corruption allegations being raised at the ministry.

Since the start of the year, ZACC has intensified the fight against corruption, and 103 arrests have been made, with 79 dockets already submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecution. ■

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