Mugabe must act on corruption
By Conrad Nyamutata
President Robert Mugabe would have the Chinese believe he is firm about corruption. Ministers who engage in corrupt activities face jail, he told Guangdong TV during his recent visit to China last week.
However, Mugabe’s pronouncements stand in stark contrast to his record and attitude towards corruption among his ministers.
Perhaps the irony of it all is that while he claimed disdain towards corruption in China, his emissary (ambassador) in that country, Frederick Shava, a former minister, was involved in one of the major scandals in Zimbabwe — Willowgate.
While Mugabe instituted an inquiry, the Sandura Commission, after Willowgate, the findings only led to the resignations of ministers, and a suicide, not dismissals.
Others involved, including Callistus Ndlovu, Enos Nkala and Dzingai Mutumbuka, all went scot-free. Maurice Nyagumbo took his own life and was declared a national hero.
This record does not evince the bullish claims that ministers engaged in graft in Zimbabwe face jail. It shows, instead, that corrupt ministers either escape censure and punishment or, worse still, are rewarded.
The Willowgate scandal sticks out as only one early example of Mugabe’s reticence towards elite corruption.
Since then, numerous scams involving the elite have gone unpunished.
The commonly cited include the ZRP Santana Scandal (1989), War Victims Compensation Scandal (1994), GMB Grain Scandal (1995), VIP Housing Scandal (1996), Boka Banking Scandal (1998), Zesa YTL Soltran Scandal (1998), Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal (1998), Housing Loan Scandal (1999) and Noczim Scandal (1999)
The others are: the DRC timber and diamond UN reported scandals (1999), GMB Scandal (1999), ministry of water and rural development Chinese tender scandal (1999), Harare Airport Scandal (2001), pillaging and milking of Ziscosteel (2005-8), pillaging of diamonds in Chiadzwa (2006-present) and the Airport Road Scandal (2008-2014).
In March last year, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) officers, armed with High Court papers, wanted to search for documents in the offices of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb), Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara).
Officers and ministers involved with these bodies were suspected of impropriety.
Despite legal authorisation, Zacc was barred from searching the offices.
Given the history of elite corruption and prevention of lawful pursuit against it, Mugabe’s purported disdain towards official malfeasance fails to stand up to scrutiny.
Not a single minister has even been questioned, let alone arrested despite the suspicious accumulation of wealth that is grossly incongruous with their official incomes.
Speaking at a birthday party hosted by the Public Service Commission in March this year, Mugabe said a minister had demanded a bribe of $70 000 while a female legislator asked for a $50 000 facilitation fee from a potential investor.
That was the last we heard of the matter.
Zanu PF has put Zimbabwe in the premier league of corrupt countries. According to an Afrobarometer report released in November last year, Zimbabwe was third in the corruption rankings after Nigeria and Egypt.
It seems participation in the liberation struggle or association with those involved in it is the ticket to impunity.
Agents of social control and deviance are populated by the like-minded.
Zacc is only a window-dressing ruse that camouflages an inherent lack of resolve to tackle the decadence.
The reason Mugabe would want to sound he was anti-corruption to his recent hosts is simple. Having signed so-called “mega” deals with the Chinese, he wanted them to believe that their money will be safe.
The Chinese have every reason to be worried.
After securing $144,4 million from China’s Eximbank for rehabilitation of waterworks, the Harare City Council diverted $8 million of the loan to buy 25 luxury vehicles without going to tender.
An investigation revealed the council did not create project bank accounts for the loan, making alleged corruption surrounding the funds difficult to trace.
Mugabe should act against corruption if he is going to enjoy the confidence of even his most loyal friends.