Zacc a toothless bulldog

HARARE - While corruption, both in the private and public sectors, has been singled out as one of the cancers vexing President Robert Mugabe’s 36 years in power, government’s efforts at arresting the scourge have been half-hearted, observers say.

Zimbabwe has continued to fare dismally in a major global corruption index, ranked at 150 out of 168 countries, according to results of a 2015 survey published by Transparency International (TI) in January this year.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) which is supposed to be the country’s watchdog against corruption has been subjected to public caricature mainly because of its lack of capacity and alleged bias towards the governing party Zanu PF.

Critics say it is not committed to fighting corruption beyond Mugabe’s half-hearted rhetoric against the scourge and that it is a “toothless bulldog” that seldom bites.

The commission has recently embarked on raids on government parastatals in a bid to retrieve documents that can expose serious corrupt activities happening in the country

The blitz has seen the arrest of MDC Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni a fortnight ago on allegations of engaging in corruption in the way he conducts business for the local authority.

But his arrests have been cited by the opposition and other observers as revealing how the commission is allegedly compromised and “blatantly in favour of the corrupt Zanu PF government”.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that it was all because of “Zacc partisan nature as well as the malevolent and grossly malicious machinations of the minister of Local Government Saviour Kasukuwere”.

On the other hand the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) party pointed to the fact that Zacc commissioners were Mugabe’s appointees.

In a statement the NCA spokesperson Madock Chivasa said “ there is no doubt that the commission is an extension of Zanu PF oppression on citizens — only there to frustrate anyone against government’s misrule instead of working to solve the problem of escalating corruption ...”.

“The nature of all the problems associated with the anti-corruption body relating to its composition and functions, can all be easily traced to the defective new Constitution which gives a sitting President excessive power to appoint all the chairpersons and all the members of all the commissions”.

This fact was put to the fore by Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba when he attacked the anti-graft organisation recently after it attempted to investigate heads of parastatals linked to Zanu PF.

The Information ministry’s permanent secretary described the organisation as a “rattle snake” that makes noise before striking.

He went to town about how the organisation should have handled the raids or at least what it needed to have done before conducting the searches.



Some Zanu PF officials described the investigations as a factional witch hunt.

Even TI-Zimbabwe Chapter director Mary-Jane Ncube seemed to concur and expressed reservations about Zacc’s sincerity.

Asked by the Daily News on Sunday what she thought about Zacc’s bid to rid the country of corruption, Ncube expressed “worry that this will end up like any other charade”.

She said Zimbabwe was so confusing owing to its politics that it was “hard to locate the legality of government’s actions”.

“You need to think about who gives the commission the list of people to be investigated. It seems very unlikely that it comes from the commission itself,” she said.

Ncube added that if the list of individuals and organisations the commission targets did not come from the commission, it would be critical “if it came from a government office, which government office and why?”

“You also need to think about whether that office is representing the State and what reforms they are trying to put in place or it’s all about politics. If it’s a political vendetta, it will just remain a vendetta without solving anything.”

She said there had been such blitz in the past that did not result in any arrests leading Zimbabweans to conclude that the authorities were merely playing politics.

“The people want to see a situation whereby investigations are made, people are arrested and convicted and whatever was stolen returned. And the system that made them steal should also be reformed”.

Only in 2013, the country’s law enforcement agents thwarted an unprecedented bid by the anti-corruption commission to arrest three ministers — then Mines minister Obert Mpofu, former Transport minister Nicholas Goche and former Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

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

Over and above that, Zimbabwe’s auditor-general also routinely issues adverse reports on abuse of public sector funds.

However, these have largely been ignored with no discernible action taken against offending officials.

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.

It has also been established that the country loses billions of dollars through corruption and smuggling in the minerals sector, with serious charges of revenue leakages from State-controlled diamond mines in Marange.

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josphat - 11 July 2016

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