Zim losing anti-graft fight

HARARE - A barrage of corruption scandals hit Zimbabwe just after independence in 1980 and they have remained pervasive and pernicious although President Robert Mugabe declared zero tolerance against the scourge.

In the past, Mugabe banged tables and declared war on corruption but there are no casualties, with observers saying his government is losing the battle against graft, mostly because of a lack of political will.

This comes as the nonagenarian leader recently admitted that the country has lost close to $15 billion in diamond revenue since 2006 but no single arrest has been made while the economy remains in deep crisis as most of the population face high levels of poverty and unemployment.

Political commentator Nick Mangwana said it is only fair to blame Zanu PF for the rise in corruption due to the former guerrilla movement’s lackadaisical approach in dealing with the cancer that is threatening to wipe out any prospects of economic recovery.

“The problem affects the whole of Zimbabwean society and every political party but there is only one party with State power. Therefore, when things are left to slide the people blame those they entrusted with power,” he said.

Mangwana noted that if nothing is done to stop corruption, then it becomes obvious to the electorate that the-powers-that-be have something to hide.

“It is corrupt to have corruption exposed everyday but no one is arrested. As if that is not enough, ill-gotten wealth is brandished and flaunted in front of the population. This is unprecedented impunity which is not only losing the country of the current generation. If unchecked the next generation is going to be equally doomed,” he charged.

Over the past few years the country’s courts — both lower and upper — have been inundated with corruption cases involving public and private officials, confirming Zimbabwe’s low rankings in corruption indexes.

Zimbabwe is currently ranked number 150 out of 168 on the Transparency International 2015 survey released in January this year.

Critics say Zimbabwe’s government is not committed to fighting corruption, apart from Mugabe’s half-hearted rhetoric against the scourge.

In December last year, Mugabe named an anti-corruption commission, provided for in the 2013 Constitution, which includes a commissioner allegedly convicted of fraud and corruption while he worked for the postal service in South Africa.

But three years ago, the country’s police thwarted an unprecedented bid by the anti-corruption commission to arrest three ministers — then Mines minister Obert Mpofu, Former transport minister Nicholas Goche and Saviour Kasukuwere, who was in charge of the indigenisation portfolio at the time.

The commission had also obtained a high court warrant, which was subsequently revoked, to search the three ministers’ offices.

Just like the South African public protector Thulisile Madonsela who has no sacred the country’s auditor-general Mildred Chiri also routinely issues adverse reports on abuse of public sector funds, but unlike in the former case where officials, including even the country’s president Jacob Zuma is ruled offside nothing is done to powerful perpetrators in Zimbabwe.

Last year’ the auditor-general found 22 ministries, out of a total 26, to have abused funds as well as having flouted procurement procedures and governance rules but no action has so far been taken.

“Each year we are promised more arrests, more prosecutions, and more asset recoveries. Unfortunately, very little seems to be happening. This clearly shows that there has been very little change in the mentality, attitude and behaviour of our citizens,” said political analysts Francis Mukora.

“Every day there is talk of bribery, embezzlement, fraud, extortion, nepotism, vote-buying, abuse of power, conflict of interest, judicial corruption and misappropriation of public funds,” he said.

Observers say the recent arrest of CMED managing director Davison Mhaka, barely four months after being reinstated by Transport minister Joram Gumbo has not only exposed serious contractions in Mugabe’s anti-corruption fight, but also portend grave implications about politicians’ overarching powers at parastatals.

And as Mhaka appeared in court recently on a money laundering charges, and frustrating the law after allegedly cooking up papers showing the flow of the $2,7 million bilked out of the CMED by First Oil, the focus has returned to Gumbo, especially after his spree of reinstating several parastatal heads and managers, who had been axed for various reasons.

Last year, Gumbo extended an olive branch to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe’s general manager David Chawota, some Traffic Safety Council managers and then the CMED boss in January this year.

This was despite former board chairman Goodwills Masimirembwa’s stern November 2015 advice or warning that reinstating Mhaka was tantamount to “terminating the quasi-judicial processes underway”, but the minister argued the latter was key in bringing finality to the long-drawn theft saga.

Paying bribes for the simplest services is routine practice, and this comes from the top to bottom.

Corruption has also cascaded downwards from top government officials to the law enforcement agents who constantly take bribes at roadblocks and are aiding the smuggling of goods.

Last month, a smuggling syndicate comprising officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army was busted at the Harare International Airport.

The bust saw seven officials being arrested for allegedly assisting three passengers smuggle 29 bags of mobile phones into the country.

Zimra officials only managed to confiscate four of the bags, one of which was found with 600 cell phones.
Money is also being smuggled through the country’s boarders, worsening the deteriorating liquidity crisis facing the banking sector.

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