Zim’s potpourri fight against corruption

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The fight against corruption has been a potpourri in Zimbabwe. The vice has been rampant in government, private sector and even in civic society organisations. There is no day that passes without the media reporting a case of corruption, especially involving top government officials.

However, in October last year, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa scored a first when he announced the setting up of an integrity and accountability panel to investigate and take action against his party’s corrupt officials.

In a statement the MDC said: “President Nelson Chamisa has appointed Advocate Thabani Mpofu to lead the integrity and accountability panel which shall enforce the zero tolerance policy to corruption in all MDC-led councils.”

“In preparing the MDC’s task as a government the president understands that our problems emanate from the lack of integrity and accountability in our public work. The president emphasises that public officials are the human interface between the State and the citizens. He wants local governments, run by his party to be an exemplary interface that is accountable and of high integrity. President Chamisa has zero tolerance for corruption and any lack of efficacy in public officials.”

Addressing a Press conference, Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda, said the committee would meet all stakeholders, including residents and organised local groups.

MDC councillors have been accused of corruption, especially in Bulawayo where some councillors were fingered for attempting to award a Harare company parking tenders without following due process.

But Chamisa’s sincerity in the setting up of such a committee has been questioned. Almost three months after it was set up, the other committee members have not been appointed and the terms of reference have not been made public.
That Sibanda has not been forthcoming when asked about the terms of reference for the integrity committee could be testimony that Zimbabweans could have been sold a dummy. Several attempts to obtain the terms of reference by this writer from Chamisa’s office have drawn blanks.

Is the MDC trying to hoodwink the donor community? The MDC has been accused of abusing donor funds in the past, so this could be interpreted as a ruse to trick the donor community into believing that the opposition party is breaking from the past. Nobody will be fooled, including donors. This came a few months after the party said it was engaging an independent firm to audit its books.

If Chamisa is serious about ridding graft in his rank and file, he should constitute the integrity committee and fish out corrupt party members. The opposition leaders should show the world that they are a true government in waiting by showing a detest to corruption. If Chamisa does not set up this committee to investigate the rot in local authorities under his party’s purview then he will be viewed as an accessory. The setting up of such a committee and giving it teeth would cleanse his party. This is a sure case of breaking from the Zanu PF culture of more talk, less action.

The MDC should repay urban residents’ votes with service excellence and Chamisa should lead the cleansing ceremony. This would shake off the notion that MDC legislators and councillors have presided over the deterioration of the urbanites’ quality of life.

Harare City Council, one of the citadels of the MDC last year made headlines for the wrong reasons following the unearthing of an alleged nepotism scandal which involved not only serving councillors, but even the opposition party’s leaders.

Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s reports bear testimony to the fact that corruption is rampant in parastatals and other government departments. But there has been much talk and less action on the part of government in as far as fighting corruption is concerned.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been blowing hot and cold in the fight against corruption. He set up an anti-graft unit in the President’s Office, which was meant to complement the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and police in the fight against the vice.

The Zacc board was subsequently fired and a new one led by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo’s wife, Loice replaced it. A few notables were arraigned before the courts facing criminal abuse of office and corruption charges. Regrettably, it seems the anti-graft dragnet is targeting either small fish or people who are perceived to be anti-establishment.

G40 members among them Walter Mzembi, Ignatius Chombo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Samuel Undenge made a beeline at the courts facing criminal abuse of office and corruption charges. The corruption fight has been turned into a political witch-hunt. This is typically how not to fight corruption.

The chaos that has been bedevilling local authorities, where houses have been built on wetlands and on top of sewage pipes has been blamed on land barons with connections to Zanu PF. The report by a commission set up to investigate the sale of State land revealed that party honchos and apparatchiks were the main culprits who abused State-land for political gain, particularly to buy votes ahead of elections.

Corruption in Zimbabwe manifests itself in various forms ranging from petty, bureaucratic to political. The corruption scourge is exacerbated by massive forms of political patronage, repression and the manipulative governance systems. The Zimbabwean populace is gripped with cynicism, scepticism and erosion of confidence in MDC-run local authorities. So an integrity committee with teeth can reclaim the lost mojo.

A person of integrity is bound by principles and motivates through ethical behaviour. Integrity is the most important trait of leadership in any society because regardless of what other beneficial characteristics exist, people will not follow someone unless they have established trust in them. Integrity and morality are in short supply in the Zimbabwe body polity.

South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) has reaped rewards of its integrity committee.

In June last year, David Mabuza was reappointed as South Africa’s deputy president at the eleventh hour, as he had to clear his name from the ANC integrity commission’s watchlist before being sworn in as an MP. A decade-long shroud of controversy almost prevented Mabuza’s continued tenure as the country’s second in command. Mabuza was accused of misappropriation of funds and corruption when he was Mpumalanga premier from 2009.

More steps should be taken to protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society by ensuring, among others, that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the MDC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct.

However, it is hoped that Chamisa’s appointing of the integrity committee will not lead to more problems emanating from the principal-agent theory. The theory postulates that the principal (Chamisa) appoints an agent (integrity committee led by Mpofu) and the agent always acts in line with the dictates and mandates of his principal. The principal is thus seen appointing corruption watchdogs to police themselves. Thus the principal-agent relationship becomes the major source of an impasse, where the agent applies the regulations selectively and in situations that the principal deems necessary. This could explain in more ways than one why Zacc, despite changing hands, has remained all bark, with no bite.

Cliff Chiduku is a journalist. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: cchiduku@gmail.com

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