Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has defended Home Affairs Minister Dr Obert Mpofu, saying allegations of corruption levelled against him are unfounded since he accumulated much of his wealth before joining Government.
Minister Chinamasa said this in the National Assembly on Thursday while responding to an avalanche of queries from some legislators on how Dr Mpofu got his wealth.
Mabvuku-Tafara Member of Parliament (MP) Mr James Maridadi (MDC-T) and Norton MP Mr Temba Mliswa (Independent) said Dr Mpofu’s acquisition of several assets, including mines, raised eyebrows as he could have bought them during his time as the Minister of Mines and Mining Development.
During debate on the 2018 National Budget, the two legislators called for Dr Mpofu to be investigated.
Minister Chinamasa noted that though he holds no brief for Dr Mpofu, most of the allegations that were being made lacked merit since they were unsubstantiated.
“I first met Honourable Mpofu around 1984 when I was going to Gaborone, Botswana, with my family for a visit,” he said. “We met at Plumtree and he was already a businessman.
“Later on, when I was an Attorney-General, I think I wanted to speak to him and he took me to his building. He had already bought it in 1998 – a very expensive building in Bulawayo.
“I am just telling you of facts that I know. I cannot defend him if there is anything or any monkey business. You know where the problem is Honourable Maridadi? We are not accustomed to see a rich African.
“We are very much comfortable to see a rich white person, but when we see a rich black man, we conclude that he is a thief. This is not a fair comment.”
Minister Chinamasa said legislators ought to know that some people had sweated for their wealth from loans and debts from financial institutions.
“I am not entrepreneurial, but there are some people who borrow heavily and most of the things that you see, you would think that they have spent cash,” he said. “Look into it, zvikwereti (it’s loans). Some people are risk-takers.
“You would not go and borrow $3 million. I would not dare. Probably, I would go for $50 000 or $100 000 — ndinenge ndatopedza (I will be done), but there are some people who take risks, if the bank rikangobwaira chete (snoozes), they will borrow $5 million.
“What they do with that money is up to them. If they have any debts, normally vanombokunyara kana uri minister (they might be extra courteous for some time if you are a minister). Kana usisiri Minister (if you are no longer a minister), before you reach home, kunenge kwatove netsamba (there would already be a letter of demand).”
Minister Chinamasa implored people to desist from making unfounded allegations against people because of their wealth.
“This is because at the end of the day, I have no obligation to tell you whatever I am doing, except when we come to disclose our assets,” he said.
“Even then, we want to make it confidential because you do not want to say, when I make a disclosure you say ‘akaiwana kupi’ (where did he get it).
“I have been employed as a lawyer since 1972. Now, you cannot ask me if I have got any assets.
“Not that I have any. You cannot ask me kuti ndakazviwana kupi iwe wakauya zuro (you cannot ask where I got my wealth when you arrived on the scene late).
“You were only born yesterday and you want to equate yourself to someone who has been in this game for all this long. I am not in any way fighting for Mpofu in his corner. I am just telling you what I know.”
Minister Chinamasa said there was nothing wrong with Dr Mpofu owning a mine.
“I know some honourable members here who own mines,” he said. “So, if one day you are appointed a Minister and you own a mine, I do not see any problem.
“Let us get used to people owning assets – it is not evil. So, we do not want people to be disqualified because they own assets.
“Let us take, for example, Tillerson. He was in the oil business, was he not? Tillerson, the State Secretary in the United States of America’s government, he is himself probably a billionaire or something.
“In fact, in that Cabinet there are billionaires, they have got assets, but they declare the assets and pursue the national interest.”