Joram Gumbo Zimbabwe’s poster boy of sleaze


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As ZANU-PF’s long-serving chief whip, Joram Gumbo came across as a tidy, backroom operator, quietly but efficiently pulling the strings for his party in Parliament. But his scrapbook in government since his appointment as minister three years ago has been anything but tidy.

Here, we take a look at some of the ethical issues that have positioned Gumbo, a Transport minister until his redeployment to the energy portfolio last month, as the poster boy for sleaze in cabinet.

While his bumbling attempts to explain the Zimbabwe Airways debacle will probably define Gumbo’s tenure in government, his admission this week that he drew allowances from the cash-rich but scandal-prone Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (ZINARA), a $300 million-per year fund which also handed him lucrative supply contracts along with some government departments, suggests the airline controversy is not an exception.

“I have a company called JMCD. It is our company and the directors are myself and my wife. It is a sewing company. It is supplying the army, ZANU-PF, the Ministry of Health (and Child Care) and many other companies. It won these tenders. It has got nothing to do with me as an individual,” Gumbo told the Herald.

“I cannot go and stop a company and say you can’t tender. It is not possible and the fact that I am working and when the company supplies the army and the Ministry of Health it is okay, but when they supply ZINARA because they have won a tender competitively like everybody else then it becomes a crime. I do not understand it.

“When they won their tender I was not even involved, but the company is there and there is nothing to hide about it. It is connected with Nemchem and was supplying a lot of things in government. We are doing a lot of cleaning and it did not start now. That has always been happening.”

Although Gumbo did not explain how his company is connected to Nemchem, he appointed former Nemchem managing director Leslie John Denn, who was shot dead in May 2016, chairman of the Central Mechanical Engineering Department soon after he was appointed minister.

Gumbo also admitted to the Herald that he had been paid thousands of dollars in allowances by ZINARA during his stint at the transport ministry. In April, the minister received $1 295 from ZINARA for local trips to assess the state of roads and another $4 380 for Malaysia travel expenses.

This is despite the ministry overshooting its $74 000 budget allocated by Treasury by spending $460 272 on both domestic and foreign travel in the nine months to September 2018, according to official figures.

“When you go out as a minister you apply for assistance because you do not have the money for hotels and all your staff so there is nothing wrong,” he said.

“ZINARA is for roads. From the ministry you are only given 650 (litres) coupons, but because you are going out you do not go alone. You go with a team to visit the roads. So if you are going to visit all the roads in the Midlands you get the funding from them. ZINARA is for roads so they will assist you to go out and do work that we are supposed to do. Every time you saw me in Nkayi, Chipinge, in Mashonaland Central or anywhere else, accommodation, food and all the other expenses were being paid for by ZINARA.”

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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