Mugabe is the ‘Godfather’ of Corruption


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Editor’s note: In this article Ken Yamamoto, a researcher on Africa at a Tokyo Institute, questions President Robert Mugabe’s sincerity in dealing with the country’s corruption scourge. Yamamoto cites several historic scandals where little or no action was taken while those implicated were rewarded with top government posts. He suggests that Mugabe cannot be serious about fighting corruption while retaining in his cabinet ministers such as Obert Mpofu (previously Mines Minister) and Ignatius Chombo (Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister).

Yamamoto also cites several dodgy deals involving the First Lady, former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono as well as Gushungo Holdings which is owned by the Mugabes. He suggests that the reason the fight against corruption will not succeed is because the head of this mafia or yakuza-like operation sits in the highest office in the land.

  • Numerous corruption scandals have reached the public domain since independence in 1980, and have spiralled out of control since 2000. The pillaging of diamonds in Chiadzwa / Marange since 2006 and the Airport Road Scandal (2008-2014) are two of the most recent. One can be sure that there are many more that have not reached the public domain. No politician connected with a corruption scandal has ever been prosecuted.
  • One very important trait among the ruling class in ZANU PF is that they all do not have strong competencies in running businesses, which has led all of them to leverage on the national institutions to sustain these side-operations and opulent lifestyles, in the process pillaging the national fiscus.
  • Whereas the Italian Mafia is an illicit organisation, Mugabe actually leads a looting mafia which has presided over the country’s decline year after year, decade after decade, churning out one corruption scandal after another. He is the Godfather of it all. He leads, rewards and consorts with the thieves in government.
  • Vice President Joice Mujuru is herself a corrupt Mafioso who has looted diamonds en-masse from the Marange diamond fields. During the early 1990s, she looted the War Victims Compensation Fund by claiming to be 55% disabled, and collected a handsome payout.
  • A 1992 report published by the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations confirmed Mugabe’s involvement in corruption following an investigation into the operations of the large Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). This elaborate criminal corporate spider-web set up was the predecessor of the present-day Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, until recently headed up by RBZ governor Gideon Gono. Gono is not only corrupt himself (and is illeged to have stolen US$37.5 million from state coffers during his tenure), but has operated as ‘personal’ banker to President Mugabe and his family, facilitating sustained pillaging of the Reserve Bank.
  • The mysterious wealth of Gideon Gono and Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo is inextricably linked to Mugabe and his wife, Grace. Despite the numerous scams involving Chombo, he has never been arrested because he “makes things happen” when the first lady wants properties to build her own portfolio.
  • In 1996, after an extended affair, Mugabe married his second wife, the increasingly avaricious Grace Marufu. This was the year that the owner of Highfields farm outside Norton was forced to sell her entire operation to the President after sustained mafia-style intimidation from him. In 2002, the owners of Iron Mask farm in the Mazowe area were forced to hand over their impressive farm to Grace. Her empire was further extended when she invaded and took over Foyle farm, one of the largest dairy farms in the country.
  • Mugabe has, during the past 34 years, stifled every opportunity to fight corruption. Moreover, he has ensured that the police are not trained in investigating white collar crime. To the contrary, top Zimbabwean policemen have been implicated in high level corruption. They include the Commissioner-General, Augustine Chihuri, who was himself implicated in a car-smuggling racket.
  • Under pressure to allow the formation of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), Mugabe has ensured that the organisation is under-funded, under resourced and has never prosecuted any white collar crime. It has no arresting or prosecution powers.


President Mugabe will never fight corruption. This is because he is deep into high level corruption himself and is also severely compromised by First Lady (dubbed First Shopper) Grace’s grand-scale corruption. In fact, based on a trail of evidence and scandals linked to Mugabe and his wife, President Mugabe is the godfather of the mafia.

Ken Yamamoto is a researcher on Africa at an Institute in Tokyo. He researches and travels frequently in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Some of his research work is commissioned by global firms. You can contact Ken on

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