With children of leaders of Robert Mugabe’s corrupt Zimbabwe regime living in Australia, how can our Government make sure it’s not enabling money to leak out of the corrupt and ailing nation?

Australia’s Reserve Bank already scrutinises the financial moves of 159 Mugabe government associates as part of the Government’s suite of sanctions against Zimbabwe — “all transactions involving the transfer of funds or payments to, by the order of, or on behalf of such persons are prohibited.”

But the fact that some of these blackballed ministers and associates have children in Australia is tricky.  

Zimbabweans are adamant that the published salaries of Zimbabwean ministers couldn’t possibly support children studying in Australia, suggesting the strong possibility that they’re dipping into public funds. This in a drought year when the UN estimates 1.4 million Zimbabweans are in urgent need of food aid; a year when Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo has refused to accept outside help to feed the population.

We’re calling for the Government to make more pointed sanctions, says Peter Murphy from the Zimbabwe Information Centre. Such policies “wouldn’t directly ban the travel of children of the listed people to Australia”, but, and this is the crux, “they do prohibit financial transactions by those [already covered by Australia’s sanctions] to entities in Australia, and this would include the university fees they are paying, and the expenses of their children while living here.”

Children of people like Zimbabwe Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, who last week issued orders for the police to shoot to kill the ringleaders or organisers of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign who had scheduled a prayer meeting to pray for peace, reports the Zimbabwe Times.

In 2005, Chihuri managed Mugabe’s brutal and internationally condemned Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Filth)/Operation Restore Order which displaced hundreds of thousands people ahead of winter and deprived them of employment. “We must clean the country of the crawling mass of maggots”, said Chihuri at the time.

The AUSTRAC agency would have records of any payment over A$10,000 made on behalf of these individuals, says Murphy. It’s not difficult to imagine that upfront university fees would immediately pop up on such a register.

We requested clarification from Mr Downer’s office:

  1. Approximately how many Zimbabwe leaders’ children are studying and resident in Australia?
  2. Does the Government monitor their money situation and financial transactions relating to them? If so, in what ways?
  3. Have any of the current sanctions against Zimbabwe been breached?
  4. Will Australia introduce the smart sanctions that the Zimbabwe Information Centre is proposing?

The response, not addressing the specific questions, came through:

Australia is at the forefront of countries that have taken a strong stand against … the Mugabe regime. In 2002, the Australian Government announced the introduction of a range of “smart sanctions” to pressure the Mugabe regime to change direction. These sanctions include travel and financial bans. They are kept under review and since 2002 have been progressively strengthened to include Ministers, officials, party figures, and key regime supporters in parastatal organisations.

Among these sanctions the Government administers financial sanctions against certain Ministers, officials and regime figures. These are administered by the RBA and under their terms transactions involving the transfer of funds or payments to, by the order of, or on behalf of such persons are prohibited without prior approval from the RBA.

We look forward to the Government outlining more specific policies for Zimbabwe politicians’ children.

Meanwhile, there are questions not only for DFAT, but also for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

How did they let Reason Wafarova through, as alleged by ZimDaily.com in an article entitled “Mugabe’s ‘Taliban’ chief studies in Australia?” The publication says that the former director of technical services in the youth ministry is currently studying at Macquarie University. One of his main jobs in Zimbabwe was to train youth militia who would torture and murder opponents of the ZANU-PF regime.