By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
It is always the curse for every lawyer, or indeed anyone that has to speak in public. There is the thoroughly well researched argument that you prepare to go and deliver, then the incoherent drivel that you actually present, and the completely devastating delivery that comes to your head that evening, when you replay your delivery and think how much better it could have been. Happens with these articles too, but let’s not tell Lance…..
So this week Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders interviewed prospective commissioners for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
It had taken a court order to get the committee to interview people properly, but we will not get into why that became necessary save to say that we must, as a nation, be very concerned with the appointment of a body tasked to address corruption has to be rescued by court order from being corruptly appointed.
My first impression when we were sequestered was, “where are the young people?” I know some experience is required to be a commissioner, but surely there are many people in their late 20s that possess this experience? Whose society are we protecting? If the young are not involved in creating a better future for themselves, who are we doing this for?
In a country where corruption has permeated all the echelons of society, where you cannot go through a normal day without meeting opportunities for the corrupt to separate you and your money or rights, it was perhaps odd that the CSRO wanted to know from each prospective commissioner what their understanding of corruption is. And, judging by the answers they got, boy, people in this country can cram definitions!
The simple truth is that we are a nation that is in the corruption swamp. Forget the measurements from Transparency International, they only calculate “perceptions” of corruption, we have gone past perceiving it, we live it. In fact, it has gone so bad that even people that should know better, MPs, Ministers, Judges, Magistrates, are so steeped in it that you must assume that they have somehow managed to separate themselves from their senses.
I mean, how else do you explain the fact that someone known to be very close to the President did not have the common sense to realise that no matter how legal his purchase of a top of the range car was, the timing and optics were just not right? How else do you explain a prosecutor who deliberately decides not to defend a case in which a politically connected person is being accused of stealing millions of US dollars? How else do you explain the fact that almost 24 months after the start of the New Dispensation, we still do not have anyone convicted of corruption – the pharmacist doesn’t count, even I think that that prosecution was bizarre.
We have normalised corruption and regard it as par for the course. Provincial lands officers run around like fief lords, dishing out offer letters for land in exchange for cars and private school fees, and nothing gets said. We take pride, including headlines even, that we have managed to suspend some VID officers in some nondescript town for taking bribes in exchange for licences and no-one stops to say: really? Like that is why we have been robbed blind on infrastructure tenders and sales of diamonds and such? Some VID licence officers in some one-horse town?
Speaking of diamonds, why are we running a whole diamond company complete with cars, golf subscriptions and paid holidays for executives when we are not selling the diamonds? Who has oversight on those that we do sell “for operational costs?”
And, while we are at it, why are we hearing that Air Zimbabwe has one plane, when the other day we flew in not one but two “national assets” which we even saw the son in law piloting? Are we seriously suggesting that people’s senses cannot perceive that these things do not pass the “smell test”? If it smells like corruption, it probably is.
And, why is it just the President alone who talks about fighting corruption? Have you noticed this? No-one wants to tackle corruption, in fact they won’t even say anything about corruption except by quoting the president. This is important for one reason: when they are with him, are they telling the President the truth? I have listened to his radio broadcasts, does he speak like someone who knows that we have never convicted a single person for corruption since he became president? I think not.
I think people are telling the President that we are winning the war on corruption. Those people are lying. We are not winning. In fact, we are not even on the battlefield. Corruption has taken residence in this country, and there is not a single person besides that President who seems the least bit bothered.
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Harare based lawyer