STUDENTS’ representatives yesterday roundly scoffed at claims by Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo that he was akin to Robin Hood saying unlike the British folklore outlaw legend, the funds he abused were meant for poor students.
Robin Hood is a legend in British folklore who would steal from the rich to improve the welfare of the poor.
The student representatives said the minister, together with his deputy Dr Godfrey Gandawa, siphoned Zimbabwe Development Fund (Zimdef) funds meant for students to “strengthen their social ties” in their respective constituencies (Tsholotsho North and Magunje) at the expense of beneficiaries.
College lecturers weighed in, saying politicians should not be allowed to funnel public funds to fund activities in their constituencies.
Zimbabwe Congress of Students’ Unions (ZICOSU) president Tonderai Chidawa said Prof Moyo was nowhere near Robin Hood. “The minister is trying to hide behind a finger, unnecessarily dragging in people who were not there when he, to use his own words, was caught with hands in the till,” he said.
“We are saying, if there is anyone who is the poorest member of society, it is the student because most of us cannot raise money needed by colleges and universities. Unlike Robin Hood, Prof Moyo is doing the opposite, stealing from the poor who are students and covering areas where he has vested interests.”
Prof Moyo, who is accused of siphoning more than $270 000 from Zimdef, on Sunday tweeted: “You can say what you want, but I would rather be a Robin Hood than a cruel tribalist, murderer & UN identified cross border diamond thief!”
Defending the use of Zimdef funds to buy bicycles for his cronies, Prof Moyo said: “The state of underdevelopment in Tsholotsho is such that bicycles are a necessity just like matches!”
Zimdef was created to benefit students at tertiary institutions, including when they are on industrial attachment.
Chidawa said it was surprising that some senior Government officials were defending Prof Moyo “as if they were the courts.”
“The law should not be selective,” he said.
“The Prosecutor General was arrested, detained and went to court. We are surprised some respected figures are springing out in defence of such an act. He is admitting he took the funds and diverted them towards bicycles in his constituency among other things and as the voice of the students, we are against that. Let the law be applied and if he is not guilty, it shall be seen.”
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) spokesperson Zivai Mhetu said:
“By likening himself to Robin Hood, Prof Moyo is giving the impression that Government, where the funds are coming from, is rich. He is trying to portray Government as a fat cat where he is taking public funds to please people in his constituency yet it is common knowledge that Government has been struggling to raise salaries for civil servants. Prof Moyo needs orientation on that one because, as we speak, there are students whose fees are paid by Zimdef but they can’t access their results for last semester because nothing has been paid out. Then, across town, someone is diverting their funds donating freebies in his constituency. We can’t continue having this.”
According to information at hand, $95 800 was transferred from Zimdef to Wisebone Trading through CABS.
Dr Gandawa received $20 000 through his personal Barclays account after which, he transferred $19 030 to HIB Rajput PL T/A Ace Cycles for 173 bicycles for Prof Moyo.
Dr Gandawa then transferred $27 550 to SKM Motorcycles for 10 tri-cycles for Prof Moyo and the balance was withdrawn in cash.
US$107 525 was transferred from Zimdef to Fuzzy Technologies’ NMB Bank account, of which $5 745 was transferred to Pridham Investments for Dr Gandawa’s personal furniture.
Dr Gandawa also paid for 69 bicycles worth $7 260 for Prof Moyo. He also transferred $12 900 to Wisebone Trading as capital to finance his personal business and the remainder was withdrawn in cash.
The documents further indicate that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating a separate case in which Prof Moyo and Dr Gandawa are suspected of getting Zimdef to release 100 000 litres of diesel worth $118 500, fuel which was then diverted to the black market.
It is alleged the fuel was requested by the Zimbabwe Youth Council on July 26 for a “skills gap assessment programme”.
Dr Gandawa recommended the allocation and Prof Moyo gave his approval on August 4, 2016.
College Lecturers’ Association of Zimbabwe secretary general Mr Nixon Madovi said if Prof Moyo wanted to please his constituents, he had to look for other avenues other than Zimdef funds.
“If what we are reading from the papers is true, then it’s tragic,” he said.
“We do not condone such kind of behaviour. We are not happy at all because while we are not opposed to the STEM initiative, the ministry has chosen to support chiefs in his constituency while students, the real beneficiaries, on attachment are not getting anything. It is unfair. While we are not politicians, even a fool can see that the money was used wrongly here.”
Prof Moyo, Dr Gandawa, Zimdef chief executive Mr Frederick Mandizvidza and Zimdef principal director (finance) Mr Nicholas Mapute could have unlawfully benefited from $430 000 of the State enterprise’s money between November 2015 and June 2016, documents show.
ZACC is investigating other alleged abuses of Zimdef funds by Prof Moyo, his deputy, and three subordinates.
The five are being investigated for five charges of fraud as defined in Section 136 of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23), and three charges under the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (Chapter 9:24).