Anti-corruption fight as good as dead in Mugabe’s hands

Source: Anti-corruption fight as good as dead in Mugabe’s hands – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 23, 2016

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Last week, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) assumed — in one fell swoop — administration of both the Anti-Corruption Act and the Prevention of Corruption Act ostensibly “as part of efforts to strengthen the fight against the scourge” of graft, intoned a pro-regime newspaper known for its uncritical or — in all fairness — mostly fearful acceptance of anything from President Robert Mugabe.


So, let’s not shoot the messenger, but the message because the regime does not blink twice to inflict collateral damage on anyone, particularly State media reporters, who questions its motives.

From day one, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has been harried and harassed to the point of emasculation and paralysis for “daring” to investigate the corrupt big fish — who are invariably ruling party politicians — and their sidekicks in both the public and private sectors, and Mugabe has not raised a finger to stop this blatant persecution. ZACC has been hung out to try.

And this at a time Zimbabweans are fighting for the restoration and strengthening of State institutions can only be described as most shocking and scandalous. Nothing can be more illustrative of the fact that the regime and the people are marching in opposite directions.

The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe succinctly and stridently noted at its annual conference last month that: “In the midst of all these challenges, the predatory demon of corruption is becoming bolder and more shameless.”

Yes, the true prophetic voice uses forceful language that does not try to avoid upsetting other people.

The response from Mugabe has been close to nothing. All we have heard are fulminations and threats followed by excusing those fingered. He has not shown the requisite political will to tackle corruption, even in the face of glaring evidence. The nation has paid an unquantifiable price for this levity that underlines lack of political will.

Now we have Energy minister Samuel Undenge fingered over dubious tenders running into hundreds of millions of dollars, but still firmly ensconced in office. Yes, we might accept that Undenge “haagaye magetsi (does not generate electricity himself)” — as Mugabe defended Undenge last year from accusations of not having planned for the reduced power generation following the drop in water levels at Kariba Dam — but why hasn’t he taken the minister to task over those questionable tenders?

And now Mugabe has effectively dealt the death blow on ZACC, totally usurping what was remaining of the role of what should be a constitutionally independent body set up to fight graft.

Predictably, he has done that through his favourite route: Invoking a statutory instrument to bypass or circumvent Parliamentary scrutiny, debate and approval in his urge to rule by decree and exert total control.

But why the apparent rush to do that? Was the commission on the verge of exposing something explosive and so had to be quickly emasculated? That is not beyond the regime as it has done that countless times before. All this shows that the Zanu PF regime is reverting to type.

It is such cynicism from the Head of State that does not inspire confidence in him carrying out the mandate to fight corruption.

In its ruling convicting and sentencing to jail then Cabinet minister Frederick Shava for perjury — that is, lying under oath — to cover up corruption in the 1980s, the High Court said: “The post of minister is a very high office, which carries great status, privileges and powers. It also carries great responsibilities. The incumbent of such office is expected to lead by example. His primary duty is to observe the laws of the country. In this regard, the accused failed miserably.”

Yes, Shava not only failed, but he did so abjectly, which in itself was most aggravating, thus, deserved a jail sentence. But it’s like Mugabe did not have sight of that damning judgment — or totally ignored it as he has done with other court rulings — as he went on to make light of the matter, leaving the nation shocked beyond belief.

Sermonised and moralised the then Prime Minister Mugabe: “Who among us has not lied? Yesterday, you were with your girlfriend and you told your wife that you were with the Prime Minister. Should you get nine months for that?”

Please save us from this excuse of an example for which no one can be charged and convicted of undermining the authority of the President! This pathetic drawing of parallels does not work. Lying to your girlfriend falls under civil matters whereas lying before the court is a criminal case. It’s as simple and as straightforward as that.

Following that statement, the State immediately halted plans to prosecute other ministers accused of perjury in the first high-profile corruption scandal in independent Zimbabwe involving several ministers acting in collusion with high-ranking bureaucrats. A great opportunity to right things was lost and that is haunting the nation to this very day.

And that very same Frederick Makamure Masiiwa Shava — having been rewarded with the post of Zimbabwe Ambassador to the United Nations, among previous lucrative diplomatic postings, despite his criminal conviction arising from corruption — was on hand to receive Mugabe this week when he landed in New York for the UN General Assembly to sanctimoniously rail at Western powers over exploitation and rising global poverty.

All this while the same is prevailing at home through Mugabe turning a blind eye to corruption among his inner circle, which has led to, among other things, cash shortages with the imminent introduction of bond notes among the drastic effects.

And let’s be serious: Can someone conceivably investigate themselves as the OPC would like to mislead the nation? Would former United States President Richard Nixon have ordered investigations against himself over political corruption that led to his resignation in disgrace in 1974? Would South African President Jacob Zuma have instituted a probe against himself over the unapproved expensive improvements to his rural homestead for which he has taken out a bank loan to repay the misspent millions?

The US and South Africa emerged stronger from these corruption scandals because of truly independent commissions that were relentless in their investigations.

The key operative word is “independent”, not the farce we are seeing in Zimbabwe where ZACC and other commissions have been reduced to mere appendages of the regime to whitewash and sweep scandals under the carpet.

It’s up to the people themselves not to take this latest usurpation by the OPC lying down by being as relentless as they are currently.

“People of hope do not just hope while seated or lying down, but hope and act; act and hope,” observed the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.
If people let the OPC have its way, the anti-corruption fight is as good as dead.