via Corruption talk cheap, activists tell Mugabe by Mary Jane Ncube for NewZimbabwe 17/09/2013
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has been challenged to match threats with action and to refrain from double speak after the veteran leader vowed Tuesday to deal effectively with corruption in the country.
Talk without action is cheap, anti-corruption activists said, adding they had heard the same rhetoric from Mugabe innumerate times before, only to be disappointed after no action was taken.
Officially opening the First Session of Zimbabwe’s Eighth Parliament, Mugabe talked tough against graft and said the country’s country’s anti-corruption watchdog would be strengthened to make it more effective.
The organisation’s commissioners would however, be forced to come clean on their own assets before they targeted others, he added.
The veteran leader also warned legislators they would be arrested if they abused public funds, in particular the Constituency Development Fund which they administer.
“Members of this new parliament should take note that the law will descend heavily on all those who will abuse the fund,” he said.
He also made the shocking revelation that management at the state-owned mining firm, ZMDC, which represents government interests in the diamond-rich Marange district had fleeced a Ghanian investor of about US$6 million.
The Zanu PF leader demanded police action over the scam, singling out ZMDC chairman Godwills Masimirembwa for particular blame although he remains in office along with the rest of the company’s management.
Anti-corruption groups and activists however said it as time Mugabe stopped just talking and, instead, took some action.
Transparency International Zimbabwe executive director Mary-Jane Ncube challenged the Zanu PF leader said “walk his talk”.
“We have heard this rhetoric from the President before. It is not the first time he has declared zero tolerance to corruption and yet one still does not have the feeling that he is committed to his word,” said Ncube.
“The stumbling block would always be the failure to follow the rhetoric with enforcement. There must be a political will to pursue top politicians involved in corrupt activities and that political will starts with the President himself.”
Ncube also criticised Mugabe for confining the lifestyle and asset audit to anti-corruption commissioners, leaving out the rest of the country’s top leaders.
“There must not be any sacred cow. This is about reforming the whole public institution and not just one,” she said.
“Corruption is also found in the executive itself but l did not hear the President saying they should also declare their own assets. The clean-up should be consistent. Everybody must adhere to the same rule.
“There must be uniformity in the application of the law. The test of the pudding is in the eating. We can only know the President is sincere when all the necessary ingredients are in place.
“All law enforcement mechanisms must be in place. If someone is arrested, he must be brought to court and all court procures must be transparent.”
Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) director Terry Mutsvangwa said Mugabe should first act on complaints of corruption levelled against some of his closest allies before he can be trusted with his comments.
“CAC does applaud Mugabe for condemning corruption and hopes that he will act tough on those who are being involved in corruption,” said Mutsvangwa.
“But as CAC, we are worried that some of his cabinet Ministers have been fingered in acts of corruption before but no action was taken.
“Even the previous parliament once demanded investigations but nothing has been done. Hence CAC calls on Mugabe to act upon this issue so that Zimbabweans will have confidence in his remarks.”
Economic rights activist Hope Gumbo said he would have given Mugabe the benefit of doubt if he had not retained in his government ministers ranked among the most corrupt public officials in the country.
“It is a plausible call that is being echoed by many other progressive Zimbabweans,” said Gumbo.
“It is however very difficult to imagine how he will deal with the problem given the fact that his party is loaded with many corrupt cronies whose escapades are in the public domain. We wait to see the implementation of the call beyond politicking.”
Zimbabwe is said to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to periodic corruption indexes released by world anti-corruption watchdogs.