How double-faced Mugabe is breeding endemic corruption

Source: How double-faced Mugabe is breeding endemic corruption – The Standard Jun 4, 2017

President Robert Mugabe often presents himself as a clean politician who abhors corruption, but latest developments in his government have once again stoked accusations that the veteran ruler does not practise what he teaches when it comes to graft.

news in depth BY VENARANDA LANGA

Mugabe a fortnight ago defied public sentiment and moved then Mines and Mining Development permanent secretary, Francis Gudyanga to the Higher and Tertiary Education portfolio after the senior civil servant was accused of embezzling $400 000 from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).

Gudyanga is accused of presiding over numerous acts of corruption during his tenure at the Mines ministry.

According to court documents in a trial involving senior MMCZ executives, Gudyanga is said to have fraudulently received $23 128 in allowances from MMCZ coffers as a sole board member, while he reportedly used money from the corporation to pay for his irrigation equipment worth $40 000, among other allegations.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines had recommended that Gudyanga must be fired for his role in the alleged scandals.

In their recent report, the committee said Gudyanga must be removed from the public service within a month of reports of corruption in which he was named.

But Mugabe ignored the calls, moving Gudyanga to another portfolio instead.

The move was part of a reshuffle of permanent secretaries, which also affected another top civil servant facing corruption charges, former Transport permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa.

Munodowafa is facing allegations of corruption involving over $300 000 after he was linked to abuse of funds at Air Zimbabwe.

Mugabe shunted the former National Railways of Zimbabwe boss to the Mines ministry.

James Maridadi, a legislator and chairperson of the Zimbabwe chapter of the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption (Apnac) attributed continued looting of state resources and corruption in the country to a culture of impunity and lack of political will to deal with the culprits.

“The problem is the system of patronage which we have in the country which breeds entitlement, and entitlement in turn, breeds impunity,” he said.

“We have a government where corrupt ministers and secretaries are recycled despite being named in graft.

“They continue looting …and know that being in government is a haven for corruption.”

Maridadi said the three arms of state, the executive, judiciary and legislature, have an obligation to end corruption although each one has a different role.

But, he added, the weakest link in doing so had been the executive which was protecting instead of arresting its members found to be involved in corruption.

“The chain is as strong as its weakest links, and in this chain it is the executive that is mostly not playing its role. The DNA of government is corruption and that is why they are failing to stop it,” said Maridadi.

He said Mugabe was the biggest culprit for failing to rein in his corrupt lieutenants.

Speaking at a dialogue organised by Information for Development Trust (IDT) in early April this year, MDC-T MP and former deputy justice minister, Jessie Majome said the absence of constitutionalism was a key factor that was driving corruption.

“The Constitution has many provisions that can be used to effectively fight corruption,” she said.

“Unfortunately, those provisions are not being matched by action as the elite is not following what the Constitution dictates.”
A recent Business Anti-Corruption Portal report also complained that relevant authorities were failing to use available legal instruments to fight graft.

“The Constitution offers a guide for appropriate conduct for public officers and the civil service, while the Prevention of Corruption Act criminalises active and passive bribery, extortion, and money laundering in the public and private sector. Zimbabwe also ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption,” reads the report.

Anti-corruption analysts said corruption continued to permeate Zimbabwe because of a culture of impunity among government leaders towards the plague, which has milked the country of billions of dollars.

Several cases of corruption in government and the private sector have been exposed by Parliament, the auditor general, anti-corruption organisations like Transparency International Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc).

Media initiatives, among them IDT which is currently investigating public sector corruption in collaboration with The Standard, have also exposed high-level graft and bad governance that cost the country billions of dollars.

Corruption-ridden sectors in Zimbabwe include tax administration. According to the Afrobarometer report released in October 2015, there is a high risk of encountering corruption in tax administration where about 40% of Zimbabweans perceive the officials to be corrupt.

This is in addition to the natural resources sector, especially diamond mining, where senior government officials, securocrats, political proxies and mining company representatives have siphoned billions of dollars that are yet to be accounted for.

Recently, Gudyanga refused to answer questions in court relating to the MMCZ case, insisting that he must withhold information he regarded as classified and Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa defended him.

There is also high-level corruption in customs administration and public procurement where the flouting of tenders is common, in addition to the police, local government officials and public health departments.

Other recent cases of corruption are the $500 000 Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund scandal where Higher and Tertiary Education minister, Jonathan Moyo and his deputy, Godfrey Gandawa were implicated, the $1,2 million graft case involving two Zinara officials Moses Juma and Davison Norupiri who allegedly flouted tender procedures and the $40 million looting of the Youth Development Fund.

MPs have also been fingered in serious cases of corruption, with a recent report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government chaired by Irene Zindi exposing Chitungwiza South MP Christopher Chigumba as an alleged notorious land baron.

Chigumba has not been charged and sits in the National Assembly.

Harare East MP Terrence Mukupe is embroiled in a tax evasion scam where some fuel tankers he was transporting were found to be filled with water.

In its 2016 annual report, Zacc complained of massive political interference.

“In the period under review [2016], Zacc investigated a number of corruption cases, large and complex involving high profile figures, including Cabinet ministers, as a result of public reports, information, inquiries. There were incidences of political interference, including threats by ministers against Zacc officers. This compromises investigations and puts the life of officers in real danger,” reads the Zacc report.

In one incident demonstrating elite political interference, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko stormed Avondale Police Station in Harare last year and ordered the release of Zinara executives, Norupiri and Juma, who had been arrested through Zacc for alleged corruption at the roads administration.

The two officials have been accused of using Zinara money to fund Mphoko’s and first lady, Grace Mugabe’s populist donations to people in some parts of the country.

Another example is the 2013 scandal where Zacc officers who wanted to search for documents at the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Corporation (Nieeb) offices were stopped by top politicians.

At one time, the judiciary was also accused of frustrating Zacc investigations when the High Court stopped the search of Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and Zinara offices.

The Zacc officers were turned away by heavily armed police amid strong suspicion that ministers were also involved in the scandals.

TIZ board chairperson, Loughty Dube, said there was “serious lack of political will” to combat corruption.

“The lack of political will is at the top that then cascades to lower structures. There is nothing being done to deal with corruption at a higher level,” he said.

“There is also lack of capacity for Zacc to deal with corruption. Government must come up with policies to make it impossible for political bigwigs to interfere with Zacc investigations.”

In 2016, a TIZ report said Zimbabwe was losing at least $1 billion annually to corruption, with police and local government officials being among the worst offenders.

Mugabe also shielded a number of politicians who were fingered in Zimbabwe’s first major corruption scandal, Willowgate, where ministers bought cars at heavily subsidised prices for resale.

The late Enos Nkala, a Zanu PF founder member and close friend of the president, was even buried at the Heroes Acre despite being identified as one of the people that were at the centre of the scandal.

Top Zanu PF and government officials have since been linked to several scandals, including the abuse of the War Veterans Compensation Fund and looting of a housing scheme for civil servants, but no high-profile politician has served time for corruption.