Mugabe's hollow pledge to fight graft

HARARE - As president Robert Mugabe faces the sunset of his long political career, the perception that he failed to end corruption has persisted because of factual evidence that points to one of the most corrupt regimes in Zimbabwe’s history, analysts say.

Before the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc)’s latest blitz against graft in high places, Mugabe said a lot about the threat of corruption to his party’s survival, and told his followers at the Zanu PF annual conference in Gweru last December that he was making great efforts to wipe out the vice.

But corruption has grown from bad to worse, because there had been no real battle against graft, analysts say.

Now Zacc has been stopped from investigating Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Savior Kasukuwere and Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development minister Nicholas Goche for alleged corruption.

Zacc’s thundering actions in probing the ministers has struck awe among corrupt officials.

No wonder, since then, Zacc has been unjustly attacked for attempting to carry out its lawful mandate, there have been attempts to arrest officials and fire some, while those not yet arraigned are being crushed by the pressure.

Observers say if Zimbabwe has to rely on its rule of law and legal circles to eliminate corruption, Zanu PF will collapse long before that and Zimbabwe will be in chaos.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Thabani Nyoni asserted that the siege on Zacc bears testimony to the long-established view that some sections of the government and Zanu PF have a lot to hide.

“Zacc is a constitutional commission, which should be allowed to carry out its mandate without fear or favour,” Nyoni said.

“This vilification of the Zacc shows that there may be more to the issue than meets the eye and that those sponsoring this relentless attack have got more than just skeletons in their cupboards.

“We challenge the police, relevant ministers and their ministries to come clean and the State-controlled media to — for a change — uphold professional journalism steeped in law and media ethics.”

Since March 15, 2013, the State-controlled media has published six articles, and even an editorial comment casting aspersions on Zacc, its staff members and commissioners. Justice Charles Hungwe, who granted Zacc the search warrant for the three ministers, has been pilloried and his integrity questioned.

“It is sad to note that the State media continues to conduct its business, in a manner that clearly suggests that it is being manipulated and used for partisan agendas by some elements if not the entirety of Zanu PF,” Nyoni said.

“Rather than raising questions on the integrity of Zacc, the State-controlled media’s actions have shone a light and brought into question the integrity of the public broadcaster and State-controlled media.”

Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said: “This attack on Zacc is not an isolated incident because any organisation that wants to advance their work in a proper and competent manner will be targeted. The intent of the Zanu PF component of government is to have institutions that exist in name only but do not carry out their mandate.”

The crackdown on the Zacc shows the murky corridors of corruption in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and betrays 100 percent tolerance of corruption in high office, analysts say.

Mugabe, through co-Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone, has said Zacc must be allowed to carry out its mandate unhindered.

The 89-year-old leader has acknowledged that corruption is a national problem, and claims curbing official corruption is one of the goals of his tenure if he wins re-election.

At his party’s conclave in Gweru in December last year, Mugabe railed against his officials often used to extort prospective investors, and said the problem had been brought to his attention by former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki.

Beyond embarrassing Mugabe’s administration, the crackdown on Zacc could mark a turning point if it leads to more rivals speaking out against attempts to cover-up corruption here.

Mugabe’s December pledge to fight graft has come to naught, since corruption remains high in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe’s hands-off model of governance has only added to the perfunctory measures by various institutions and officers assigned to eradicate it.

Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), a local chapter of the leading global anti-corruption watchdog, said there was need for more attention to be paid by the current coalition government and future government on guaranteeing the independence of institutions like Zacc and releasing them from political subservience so that they are not used as pawns for political vendettas.

“The ZRP should not interfere with Zacc’s mandate of fighting corruption as recommended in the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and articulated in Section 108 A of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” the TIZ statement said.

The attempts to hobble Zacc in its Nieebgate probe confirm Mugabe’s failure in the war against corruption, analysts say.

It was this Nieebgate investigation in particular that was meant to convey the message that the top echelons within Zimbabwean government apparatus would no longer be able to plunder the State with impunity. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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