The Sunday Mail
Brian Chitemba Investigations Editor
Zimbabwe Open University (Zou) Vice-Chancellor Professor Primrose Kurasha allegedly splurged over US$100 000 to charter a plane to South Africa for her ailing husband, Professor Jameson Kurasha. Questions have also been raised over the acquisition and ownership of an upmarket block of flats which were bought using workers’ pension funds.
She is again fingered in another scandal in which she hired her husband as a Zou consultant. He, in turn, pocketed hundreds of thousands of United States dollars in fees.
Information gathered by The Sunday Mail shows that the Vice-Chancellor withdrew over US$100 000 from the university to pay for the expenses incurred in airlifting her husband whose medical expenses were settled by First Mutual Medical Aid. These and other cases were once subject to forensic investigations by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) although the probe was halted under unclear circumstances.
Zacc chairman Mr Denford Chirindo confirmed a team of investigators once descended on Zou and raided computers in search of information incriminating Prof Kurasha and other managers. The investigations were, however, stopped following a seemingly coincidental request by the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Office to audit the university.
“Accounts were supposed to be audited first by the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Office before our investigations, so we are not sure whether that has happened or not,” said Mr Chirindo.
Repeated efforts to get clarification on the audit from Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri were fruitless as she was said to be busy in marathon meetings and workshops “until after the Independence holidays”.
Zacc has come under fierce criticism for failing to deal with any of the corruption cases brought before it while its investigators have been accused of receiving bribes. Zacc has defended itself saying it does not have prosecuting authority as it was the preserve of the National Prosecuting Authority. It is also alleged Zou workers are in the dark as to how their pension funds were used to buy Cambridge Mews — a block of high-end flats in Avondale suburb.
Prof Kurasha together with university registrar Mr Daniel Ndudzo and former finance director Mrs Perpetual Masvikeni-Ndekwere have been jointly implicated in the secret deal which saw the acquisition of the flats. The Zou bosses have denied the allegations. Zou director of communications, marketing and publications Mrs Ndai Nyamakura confirmed that Zacc engaged the institution over alleged abuse of funds.
She said: “Your question refers to an issue that was raised and thoroughly investigated and concluded by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission in 2011.”
Mrs Nyamakura denied that Prof Kurasha was involved in the acquisition of Cambridge Mews in 1999, saying that she was not part of Zou then.
However, information on Zou’s website suggests that Mrs Nyamakura deliberately misled The Sunday Mail as her boss was already the institution’s pro-vice-chancellor at that time.
“Cambridge Mews is a property purchased by the Zimbabwe Open University Pension Fund and is duly registered in the Fund’s name i.e. Zimbabwe Open University Pension Fund (Zou Pension Fund). The Zou Pension Fund is not administered by the university but by Old Mutual through Knight Frank. All rentals from Cambridge Mews go to the Pension Fund Account and are supervised solely by Old Mutual. Mr Elias Munyari, of Knight Frank, and Ms Rutendo Rambi, of Old Mutual, are responsible for the management of Cambridge Mews.”
Mr Munyari confirmed that Cambridge Mews was bought by the Zou Pension Fund but revealed that since April 2009 — when Knight Frank took over management of the flats — they “haven’t received a copy of the title deeds”.
The Sunday Mail had initially sought a comment from Prof Kurasha who referred all questions to Mr Ndudzo who, in turn, directed that Mrs Nyamakura respond to the allegations.
The Zou corruption allegations come amid shocking revelations that executives in some State-linked firms gobbled US$600 million in salaries and allowances since 2009 and US$133 million last year alone. The money was pocketed by 3 000 individuals who sat on boards or were chief executives and senior managers of the country’s 78 parastatals and State enterprises.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has fired warning shots, saying Government was turning the recently-adopted policy framework on parastatals and State enterprises into an Act of Parliament to legally punish officials who deviate from good corporate governance.