By Fungi Kwaramba and Tendai Kamhungira
Zimbabweans have pooh-poohed President Robert Mugabe’s pledge on Thursday that he will not shield senior Zanu PF and government officials fingered in corruption from prosecution, with critics, saying the nonagenarian completely lacks the political will to deal with the worsening scourge.
This comes as more senior government and Zanu PF officials, including Cabinet ministers, have come under the spotlight in recent months, and are being investigated for corruption, fraud, abuse of office and money laundering, among many other serious charges.
So serious has the problem become that even the normally restrained security establishment has now joined the growing calls by ordinary Zimbabweans that Mugabe, the government and Zanu PF start walking their tough talk on fighting corruption by arresting those implicated in graft.
Officially opening a school on Thursday that was built by the military in Mukumbura, Mashonaland Central, Mugabe said his government would not stand in the way of the prosecution of all those who were caught engaging in corruption.
However, the statement has completely failed to gain traction with most Zimbabweans, including opposition parties and civil society organisations, who say he only pays lip service to dealing with the scourge.
Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is among those that have cast doubt on both the police’s and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission’s (Zacc’s) “real appetite and ability” to deal decisively with people implicated in corrupt activities.
“We have heard this type of talk before coming from Mugabe. He talks very tough against corruption but in reality, he does virtually nothing to clamp down on the vice. When he says these things he is just playing to the gallery. We don’t believe him.
“He doesn’t have the political will to crush corruption. If anything, he rewards corrupt Cabinet ministers and promotes Zanu PF cadres who have been mired in corruption scandals,” party spokesperson Obert Gutu told the Daily News yesterday.
Former civic leader McDonald Lewanika, bemoaned the fact that Mugabe had given “the wrong impression” on his key lieutenants who were facing serious corruption charges, by making them feel that they were untouchable.
“Mugabe is paying lip service to the clamour by people for accountability. The proof of the pudding will be on what happens next, with the unfortunate precedent being that he has already interfered with the process in the case involving (Higher Education minister), thereby creating the impression that Moyo is a sacred cow,” he said.
Early this month, Zacc swooped on Moyo and his deputy Godfrey Gandawa, accusing them of being involved in multiple serious fraud, money laundering and criminal abuse of office activities, amid claims that the Zanu PF politburo member had allegedly benefited from Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) donations that involved the irregular purchase of bicycles which he donated to his Tsholotsho North constituency.
The ensuing storm has not only exposed Zanu PF’s nasty tribal, factional and succession fissures, but also the ruling party’s gross abuse of State resources to advance its interests and those of its senior officials.
In turn, an angry Moyo has accused Team Lacoste (the faction rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zanu PF) and key players at Zacc of waging a factionally-driven war against him.
In the meantime, Zacc is also said to be investigating Moyo over $5 million which was released for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) promotion, which the anti-graft body suspects could have also been improperly handled.
Contributing to the debate on corruption in Harare on Thursday, the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) think tank, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said Mugabe was reluctant to act on corruption because it had sustained his long rule.
“When we got independence in 1980 we were supposed to start on a new framework of building strong institutions, having a different political culture … but this was not done and this is the problem.
“The problem we have is the subjugation of the will to transform our political culture, the will to transform our national institutions over the will to power. That’s why we have a 92-year-old saying he wants to remain in office,” he said.
“The kind of corruption we have in this country is there to sustain the political power of certain political individuals … to sustain the power of the incumbent leader. That is why the president does not act against the corruption because it sustains his authority, it sustains his long incumbency.
“This is the problem, but it’s not only the problem we have in the State. It’s also the problem we have in civic space … If you form a burial society, you must die with it … so it’s pervasive and it has become a culture that we don’t want to transform,” Ruhanya added.
Giving oral evidence before the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Security on Monday, army chief of staff Douglas Nyikayaramba said corruption had become a security threat in the country and thus needed to be dealt with decisively.
And just like Moyo, Local Government minister and Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, has also landed in trouble after Parliament recommended that he be arrested over alleged criminal abuse of office during his tenure at the Indigenisation ministry, where he stands accused of misrepresenting facts on $10 million meant for communities in the rich diamond mining area of Marange. Daily News