By Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Michael Reza is struggling to convince sceptic Zimbabweans that ED acolyte Wicknell Chivayo and other big names fingered in the multi-million dollar election material corruption scandal will face the music.

Reza told the media early this week that the anti-corruption body will brook no sacred cows.

But many Zimbabweans believe that Reza’s rant was purely high-sounding nothing and sublime nonsense. They patiently wait to be positively surprised by ZACC’s successful prosecutions and convictions in the ZEC case and not only in the Presidential goat scheme case that they have deliberately chosen to pursue as a diversionary tactic.

Instead of assuring the nation, Zimbabweans remain reticent about Reza’s sonorous utterance that there will be no sacred cows when it comes to the ZEC corruption scandal. They have heard such statements before a familiar script of grandiloquence; of shrill but vacuous fury that will certainly not yield anything in the end.

Michael Reza is the ZACC chairperson. Reza is the Shona word for a razor blade and the word will largely be used in its literal sense in this piece.

For quite a number of reasons that will be revealed in this week’s instalment, Zimbabweans know that this reza (pun intended) is too small to cut through this grand edifice of corruption that has, among others, sucked in the President, his chief secretary Martin Rushwaya, the chair of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Priscilla Chigumba and Isaac Moyo, the head of the CIO, country’s spy agency,. .

Coming as his statement did in the same week that former Cabinet Minister Priscah Mupfumira was acquitted of corruption by the courts, Zimbabweans are certain that Reza’s boisterous statement was mere rhetoric to calm the nerves of an apoplectic nation. They believe it was all a perfect a warm up to the usual ritual of catch and release.

From the ZACC chairperson’s recent, much-publicised press interview, several disturbing issues emerged that all show that this particular reza, nay razor blade, is just too trite, too small and too blunt to slice through this huge scandal that sits at the heart of the lack of integrity of the August 2023 national elections.

Firstly, even though they were not directly mentioned by name though a logical inference can be made as to their identities, Chigumba and Moyo are mired neck-deep in this scandal.

Yet Reza said the Commission was keen to interview only Chivayo, Moses Mpofu and Mike Chimombe. We wait to see how he will proceed but Zimbabweans would have been happier if Rushwaya, Moyo and Chigumba were all included on the list of people to be interviewed.

In fact, it has now emerged that this Reza (blade) is now targeting the whistleblowers Mpofu and Chimombe in the separate and unrelated case of the botched Presidential goat project where they are alleged to have fleeced the State of millions of dollars.

True, Chimombe and Mpofu may have looted millions in the goats scheme, but it appears from the timing that they are now being targeted for exposing Chivayo, Mnangagwa, Chigumba and others by placing the ZEC corruption heist in the public domain.

Now ZACC appears to have forgotten about the ZEC graft and are spiritedly pursuing the goats case so as to target and push back the whistleblowers who exposed ED and his begotten Chivayo in a massive electoral heist that is as clear as a goat’s behind.

ZACC is playing mind games. They are now deliberately diverting focus and attention from the matter at hand as they seek to spare ED, Chivayo and Chigumba who are at the centre of the 2023 election scandal which is the key case that has gripped national attention and for which Reza sought to assure Zimbabweans at his press conference .

Chigumba is specifically mentioned in official documents around this case and even in letters by Chimombe and Mpofu as having been part of the team that met Ren Form CCC officials twice on the same day in South Africa on 2 February 2023.

It may be early days yet in the purported probe of the ZEC elections deal but the sincerity of the Commission will be tested by how it proceeds from now. It has to interview and if necessary prosecute all the characters who are directly or impliedly mentioned in this gargantuan malfeasance.

They must target everyone who has been implicated in this case and not only Mpofu and Chimombe, who they are now spiritedly pursuing for a different case altogether.

We wait to see how the Commission will deal with Chigumba, Moyo and the characters in the Office of the President and Cabinet since, as Reza himself said, there are no sacred cows when it comes to corruption.

Secondly, we are not sure when and at what stage Reza held what he alleges to have been his meeting with Mnangagwaa.

One hopes that they did not meet after this ZEC case broke out, which could have serious implications on the autonomy of ZACC and the sincerity of the investigation.

This is because Mnagagwa himself is implicated in this case. ED is a suspect who ought to be interviewed as it is the OPC that reportedly handled the tender process, notwithstanding that ZEC is supposed to be independent and that Mnangagwa was a candidate in the same election in which his office chose the company that would provide the voting material.

I am not a lawyer but if the law does not allow ZACC to interview and institute criminal proceedings against a sitting President, at least Martin Rushwaya, the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet who reportedly presided over the tender process must be called to account for his involvement in election matters that are supposed to be under the sole purview of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

In fact there were two candidates who unprocedurally involved themselves in this huge ZEC saga.

First it was Mnangagwa through his office then Scott Sakupwanya through his company, Better Brands Limited, the local partner of Ren Form CC of South Africa. Sakupwanya was a candidate in Mabvuku in the August 2023 election yet his company was involved as a local partner in supplying the voting material for the same election he participated in.

It’s a mess.

It is now clear from the huge amount of information now in the public domain that the lack of transparency in the ZEC deal inevitably led to corruption and bribery, conflict of interest, overpricing or inflated costs, uncompetitive tendering, breach of procurement regulations, fraud, collusion, and lack of accountability, money laundering and other palpably illicit activities.

Rummaging through the documents to do with this case, there is a curious line item whose invoice was sent to the Office of the President and Cabinet.

Both Chigumba and Rushwaya must explain to ZACC why invoice number 1444 for Voter Results Transmission and for an amount of US $7 786, 800 was sent to the OPC and not to ZEC.

One may surmise that it was because ED, probably with the collusion of the CIO, wanted to be responsible for the transmission of the election results so that he could tamper with them in the process.

It is frightening that at a time when ED was a candidate, his office not only chose the company that provided the voting material but paid for the specific line item of transmission of the results of the same poll in which he was an interested party!

Given the magnitude of this case, the characters involved and the ZACC chairperson’s own personal judicial record, it is very clear that this Reza blade is too small to cut through this gigantic rigmarole of avarice and corruption.

This Reza is just too blunt for the sharpness that is needed to cut through this huge edifice of graft!

Michael Reza’s own record of judicial activism on behalf of Zanu PF does not inspire any confidence that he will be able to cut through this case.

Reza is a Mnangagwa appointee to the Commission as a result of his strident political work as a prosecutor where he got dozens of people locked up or convicted on trumped up charges.

As the regime’s hatchet man at the courts, the catalogue of people that Reza judicially persecuted through prosecution include Fadzai Mahere, Tendai Biti, Joannah Mamombe, Jacob Mafume, Cecilia Chimbiri, Makomborero Haruzivishe, Evan Mawarire, Job Sikhala, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Hopewell Chin’ono and Siphosami Malunga, among many others.

Reza is basically a Mnangagwa lackey and it is highly unlikely that he will impartially deal with this case in a manner that will prejudice the interests of both his principal as well as fellow lackeys such as Chivayo, Sakupwanya and others.

The fact that Reza led the Prosecutors for ED crusade at the captured courts may have been the reason not only for his appointment as ZACC chair but also why he most likely went to see Mnangagwa after the case broke out.

He may have gone to ED to ask how far he can go with this case, pretending of course to be oblivious to the fact that Mnangagwa himself has a case to answer on the same matter. He was conflicted.

A mosquito cannot cure malaria. Just how do you ask a criminal how far you can go in probing a case implicating him?

In any case, Reza at his interview with the press appeared so enamoured by his meeting with Mnangagwa. He told the media that the President had told him that there were no sacred cows when it came to corruption.

There was everything wrong about a seemingly unsure chair of a supposedly independent Commission visiting an implicated President to seek assurance on a mandate that is clear at law and in terms of the country’s Constitution.

He did not need ED to tell him that there are no sacred cows when it comes to matters of corruption.
He did not have to kowtow to ED or seek his assurance.

As a chair of an independent Commission and as a lawyer, it ought to be common cause for Reza that the law must be deliberately blind, moreso on grave offences relating to unbridled avarice and graft.

Reza had no reason to make a beeline to Mnangagwa to be told the obvious, unless he went there to be told what to do on this case, itself a palpable sign of political capture of one of the most important chapter 12 institutions in terms of our national Constitution.

To sum it up, dear reader, we have walked this road before. The optics around this whole matter, some of which have been raised in this article, do not inspire any confidence that this case will be any different to others in the past.

The criminal President and the die-hard criminals around him are likely to escape unscathed, yet again.

Probably bruised but very safe.

Indeed, this Reza is just too blunt to slice through this huge corruption case, given the characters involved; especially Mnangagwa who is Reza’s appointing authority.

Now the Reza (blade) is suspiciously engaged in selective cutting.

There is selective application of the law as Michael Reza targets and stridently pursues whistleblowers Mpofu and Chimombe for a completely separate and unrelated case.

Without seeking to abslove them in the goat case, Mpofu and Chimombe’s crime for which they are now being electively targeted is clear.

They exposed the father and his only begotten son Chivayo.

As Zimbabweans wait for ZACC to give updates on the massive ZEC scandal, the blunt Reza has instead chosen to go goat skinning by preoccupying “itself” with something else called the Presidential goat scheme.

*Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava. He is a journalist and a political scientist by profession.