Corruption has become endemic in Zimbabwe in both the private and public sectors. Zimbabwe ranks 157 out of 180 countries in the 2020 Transparency International corruption perceptions index (CPI). Last week, NewsDay (ND)’s Cliff Chiduku caught up with Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) executive director Muchaneta Mundopa (MM) to discuss a wide range of issues relating to the vice.
ND: A number of notable figures have been arrested since May 2019 when the new Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) board led by Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo was appointed, but concern has been raised over the turnaround time of concluding cases and what appears as selective investigations. What is the missing link?
MM: Indeed, the country has seen a sizeable number of notable figures being investigated and some arrested for corruption since 2019. However, what has been discouraging for us as Transparency International Zimbabwe has been the slow pace at which prosecutions of anti-corruption cases are being finalised. Furthermore, we are concerned about the selective application of the law when it comes to people accused of corruption.
You would note that while the former Health and Child Care minister (Obadiah Moyo) was granted bail on his first appearance at court, the same was not for Herbert Gomba (former Harare mayor) and Jacob Mufume (suspended Harare mayor). We are of the view that the missing link might be expertise to properly investigate and prosecute such cases as well as the rules of court being applied. Corruption within the Judiciary might also be a factor as to why these cases take long to finalise.
ND: Corruption appears to be endemic in Zimbabwe with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit’s 2019 report indicating that US$1 billion per year was laundered between 2014-18, while Afrodad estimated that between 2009-13, the country lost US$2,83 billion through illicit financial flows, do you think Zacc has the capacity to investigate and prosecute such cases?
MM: Zacc has no prosecuting powers, but has investigating powers. The powers to prosecute cases lies with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). While we might have competent investigators and prosecutors who are able to investigate and prosecute criminal cases, we are of the view that there is need to capacitate the same on how to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption. Corruption by its nature is a very technical and complex crime. It requires co-ordination of various stakeholders such as citizens and the media who expose corruption, State agencies such as investigators to carry out investigations and the Judiciary to ensure that such cases are properly prosecuted.
ND: Do you think there is proper co-ordination between crime-busting organisations such as Zacc, NPA, police and Special Anti-Corruption Unit? How can this be improved?
MM: One of the reasons we have often cited as contributing to the lack of progress in the anti-corruption fight in Zimbabwe has been the lack of co-ordination between the various State and non-State anti-corruption actors. We are of the view that the success of anti-corruption efforts is partly hinged on the effective co-ordination of anti-corruption agencies and stakeholders. However, the diversity of institutions, intersecting mandates, competing agendas, lack of institutional clarity and the varying level of independence makes it extremely difficult for these institutions to co-ordinate their efforts. It is against this background that, as an institution, we welcomed the adoption of the country’s maiden Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) which among other things seeks to co-ordinate players in the anti-corruption chain. However, we are also aware of the fact that having a document on its own does not guarantee the co-ordination, hence, we call upon Zacc, who have the mandate of spearheading the implementation of NACS, to be intentional in co-ordinating such actors who bring to the agenda different expertise needed if Zimbabwe is to win the fight against corruption. This also requires financial resources and as such we implore the government to adequately fund the implementation of the NACS.
ND: The independence of Zacc has also come under scrutiny. In your view, how should Zacc be constituted and funded so that it can be independent?
MM: I do not think the scrutiny is on the basis of how it is constituted, but rather how it performs its mandate. The Constitution is very clear in terms of how Zacc functions. For instance, section 234 of the Constitution states that commissions such as Zacc are independent and should not be subject to the direction or control of anyone. They should also exercise their functions without fear, favour or prejudice. The Constitution makes it very clear that no one must interfere with the functioning of independent commissions.
However, a lot of citizens are sceptical of the independence of Zacc, which is understandable. The social contract between citizens and State, including State institutions has been lost and this makes it hard for citizens to trust the sincerity and independence of institutions like Zacc.
These suspicions are worsened by the catch and release phenomena that characterises the anti-corruption agenda in Zimbabwe, where senior public officials are arrested only for the matter to drag after they have been granted bail or in some instances we never hear of the results of their investigations.
A case in point is when Zacc indicated that they were investigating a case where Health and Child Care deputy minister (John Mangwiro) is said to have influenced tendering process regarding the acquisition of COVID-19 medicinal supplies and sundries. This leads to citizens believing that there is an “invisible hand” that influences the process and outcome of these cases.
ND: Zimbabwe is viewed as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa after it ranked 157 out of 180 in the TIZ 2020 corruption index, how do you come up with such rankings?
MM: The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is a corruption measurement tool developed by Transparency International in 1995. The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and businesspeople. It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
The CPI uses 13 data sources from 12 independent institutions specialising in governance and business climate analysis such as the African Development Bank country policy and institutional assessment (2018), World Bank country policy and institutional assessment (2019) and the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index Expert Survey (2020) to mention but a few.
All these sources measure some element of corruption and governance within a country. So, what the CPI then does is that it reconciles the different aspects of corruption into one indicator.
CPI captures the following manifestations of corruption: bribery, diversion of public funds, prevalence of officials using public office for private gain without facing consequences, ability of governments to contain corruption and enforce effective integrity mechanisms in the public sector, red tape and excessive bureaucratic burden which may increase opportunities for corruption, meritocratic versus nepotistic appointments in the civil service, effective criminal prosecution of corrupt officials, adequate laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest prevention for public officials, legal protection for whistle-blowers, journalists, investigators when they are reporting cases of bribery and corruption, State capture by narrow vested interests, access of civil society to information on public affairs, among others.
This might explain why Zimbabwe has a low score of 24 out of 100, ranked one of the most corrupt countries in Africa and globally with a ranking of 157 out of 180 countries.
ND: With the coming in of the Whistleblowing Act, can Zimbabweans remain hopeful that the vice will be tamed?
MM: The development and adoption of the Whistleblower Act in Zimbabwe is long overdue. We are of the view that the relevant stakeholders such as the Justice ministry and Parliament should expedite the adoption of this piece of legislation.
However, while the whistleblower legislation is a very important tool in the fight against corruption, we are of the view that it is but just one of the key components needed to accelerate the fight against corruption.
There is need to address corruption holistically using provisions stated in regional and international anti-corruption conventions that Zimbabwe is a State party to such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Furthermore, it is not only about enacting this piece of legislation. It must be accompanied by the political will to respect the provisions of the Act and putting in place mechanisms for the practical effect of its operalisation. This also requires input from all stakeholders.
ND: The COVID-19 pandemic had created opportunities for corruption in providing services and procurement under emergency circumstances. How bad has been the situation? Do you think Zacc can unravel and immediately prosecute the cases for instance the US$60 million drugs procurement scam?
MM: The COVID-19 pandemic like all disasters or pandemics in Zimbabwe has created avenues for corruption to thrive, ranging from grand corruption to petty corruption. We have noted with concern corruption related to procuring of goods related to COVID-19, where senior public officials and politically-exposed persons influence the tendering processes, an example being the US$60 million Draxgate scandal. Unfortunately, such cases are taking too long to be finalised and this sends a wrong message to would-be perpetrators. Zimbabwe has become a country where corruption is a low risk and high reward activity which should not be the case.