Mnangagwa's anti-graft blitz loses steam

HARARE - The anti-corruption crusade rolled out by President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he assumed the top office late last year is losing steam as the mighty and powerful are finding ways of escaping the long arm of the law, the Daily News can report.

In his first few months in office, Mnangagwa lived up to his strong anti-corruption billing by arresting a coterie of politicians fingered for abuse of office and misappropriation of funds.

But despite the early high profile anti-corruption hype, the new dispensation has recorded no convictions in trials of the allegedly corrupt government officials.

In fact, most of the officials nabbed on graft allegations are now out on relaxed bail conditions, with some having had their passports returned, including permanent secretaries accused of graft.

Mnangagwa has been forced to establish a special anti-corruption prosecution unit based in his office, unsatisfied with the slow pace with which anti-corruption matters are being handled, and to placate those who accuse his administration of pursuing a vindictive blitzkrieg targeting rivals.

Meanwhile, chilling warnings made to individuals and corporates accused of externalising foreign currency have come to nought, more than two months after the expiry of the March 19 deadline.

Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said anti-corruption drives rarely succeed.

“Any country with many people at senior level suspected of corruption will mean that corruption is part, not just of the system of government, but the culture and structure of government,” he said.

“There is a transition period where government just won’t work if all corrupt people are purged — as there will not be enough people left. Also, in Zimbabwe, the ruling elite is a tight group, bound by party ties, kinship ties, and liberation ties. Everyone knows how to steal and everyone knows someone who will know how to turn the heat down if they are caught,” Chan told the Daily News.

“Also, as in Kenya and Nigeria, no one believes there is an actual anti-corruption drive — when almost all the elite drive luxury cars, live in Borrowdale Brook, have farms, and carry Louis Vuitton briefcases — so no one is actually disappointed when all the smoke and thunder fade and no one important is convicted. If the president is serious, he will have to wait till after the elections, hoping he has a strong enough electoral mandate to attack corruption.”

Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said an absence of resources, skills and unconditional political will to create a formidable anti-corruption capacity remain the primary obstacles.

Pigou said corruption was a notoriously difficult crime to prove, which requires enhanced focus on related crimes of fraud and racketeering.

He said Zimbabwe needs a truly independent anti-corruption capacity that is free from political interference, one that is accountable to Parliament and not the Executive and has a protected budget.

“There also needs to be greater coordination between the various agencies working directly and indirectly in this field, including the office of the Auditor-General,” said Pigou.

“The announcement of yet another body housed inside the presidency may be well-intentioned, but it does not inspire confidence, especially in a context where there are repeated concerns raised about the partisan focus of investigations.”

Regarding the millions of dollars funnelled outside the country, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, told the Daily News that Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya had just given Mnangagwa an update suggesting a new approach to deal with those who externalised money and assets.

“We faced a very basic problem and I will be very honest with you. Mangudya came back to the president and said; one, I think there must be consideration of the fact that most of these cases occurred at a time when the economy was in a tumultuous state, and what we are considering as misbehaviour, unlawful behaviours on the part of body corporates were in fact existential choices at the time,” said Charamba.

“So, Mangudya said I prefer an approach where — considering that the offending parties are forthcoming — he prefers an approach where he engages, but where this route does not yield a result, he will come back to the president and ask him to invoke his other whip,” he told the Daily News.

“And if you notice from the update last week, more monies are trickling in. So really, it means that engagement is bearing fruit and the president was very clear, he said ‘well, John, you have put your honour on the line, what I want is the robbed economy to receive back its money. You said you prefer persuasion, I give you the chance to use that, but it means it’s your honour now that is on the line’.”

Charamba said when Zacc was created, there was no corresponding re-engineering of institutions in a way that would make sure the commission rests on the feet of related institutions.

“We had a very strange situation where you have a constitutional commission called Zacc but which is de-linked from the police force, which is de-linked from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which is de-linked even from the President’s Office.

“You have to make sure that in its interface with all those bodies, it is not surrendering its independence. What we are trying to do is to make it more effective,” said Charamba.

Explaining the use of presidential decree to set up the special unit, Charamba said they could not go back to Parliament to have Zacc reframed “because that takes long but what you can then do is create some institution within that allows those inter-linkages using Executive powers.”

But political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said taking the corruption prosecutions from the NPA to the presidency was not only illegal, “but a political phantasmagorical ploy aimed at shielding the presidency and close associates from anti-corruption scrutiny.”

He said Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption drive had inherent bottlenecks and challenges as everyone around him had their hands in the cookie jar.

Saungweme said fighting endemic corruption using tainted hands, fouled institutions and defiled systems only happens in fiction movies.

“At best such anti-corruption calls by a tainted administration is just useful as electoral political banter, in an election year,” Saungweme told the Daily News.

Academic and fierce-pro-Mnangagwa loyalist and newspaper columnist Reason Wafawarova said he does not think the special unit can replace a constitutional commission.

“I think there is a general belief that the NPA is compromised, just like many of our institutions. However, a new unit in ED’s office could be viewed as a political outfit set to politicise the justice system. It’s a tricky situation.

“ED’s political will to fight down corruption has to gain legal momentum because people are not arrested, charged, tried and convicted politically. That happens at law,” he said.

Comments (5)

I think he is waiting for the outcome of the elections.

Yohwe - 30 May 2018

he is not waiting for anything he part of the corruption

g40 - 30 May 2018

By creating a parallel anti-corruption unt, Ngwena is protecting his cronies and sidekicks. This is actually illegal and a step towards dictatorship. This unit should abort and fail to see the light of day.

Argus - 30 May 2018

yeaah?...I think he wants to do the job...but he has no trust in some of his people.They can't be trusted.Send a thief to catch a the adage goes.Thats another trick.You just group together a team led by the most corrupt official and and you catch the thief...bam!

Mhofu - 30 May 2018

It is unfortunate that Ngwena himself has also been fingered in various corrupt activities which makes it a bit uncomfortable for him to take the anti-corruption drive seriously and to give it all the support it needs.Most of all cabinet ministers and their deputies have have some skeletons in their closets,so the best way to tackle corruption is by kicking out Ngwena and his team of thieves in the forthcoming elections.Thats the only solution available or else we wil continue to wallow in poverty Ngwena and his henchmen vachingoba Vachingoba,vachingoba.

Luke Munya Mabika - 31 May 2018

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