THE Willowgate Scandal, one of the major investigative stories in the history of the media in Zimbabwe, is pregnant with many important lessons.
When the scandal was first exposed in the media, then Cabinet minister Enos Nkala resigned. And after the findings were published, another implicated politician, Maurice Nyagumbo, also resigned and later took his own life.
Since that 1988 scandal, which shook the political establishment to its core and attracted attention from around the world, Zimbabwe has had to grapple with numerous cases of corruption both in the public and private sector.
The cancer seems to be festering throughout Zimbabwe’s body politic — in civil society organisations, churches, schools, the courts and other institutions charged with protecting the generality of the populace and the country at large.
It is disheartening to note the same institutions mandated with the responsibility of ensuring prudence and adherence to the laws of the country have themselves been mired in corruption scandals, a fact that at one point was raised by His Excellency President Mnangagwa.
Yet, several studies by respected organisations and scholars from around the world have concluded that strong public institutions are important in fostering economic growth and safeguarding a country’s national security.
Today, Zimbabwe finds itself in the grip of a myriad of challenges that continuously test its solidity.
Strong institutions ensure that issues of corruption are dealt with promptly as there should be coordination amongst all arms of the State.
Oftentimes, criminals exploit the laxity in institutions to evade justice. There is, therefore, urgent need to capacitate all insitutions dealing with issues of law and order, including the delivery of justice particlularly in tackling complicated cases.
In our Society Section of this newspaper, we have a detailed undercover report on the rampant corruption taking place at the Registrar-General’s Office where thousands of citizens are failing to secure identity documents and the much-sought-after passport because of an opaque system that favours the corrupt.
What is even more disturbing is that officials at the Passport Office barely raise an eyebrow as bribe-paying applicants are helped to jump the queue by syndicates involving corrupt staffers at the Registrar-General’s Offices and their runners.
As a country we have a huge problem when a few individuals at the RG’s Office can hold to ransom thousands of people just to line their pockets.
This is the same with a few groups of machete-wielding gangs terrorising entire communities and even having the guts to attack the police, not to mention attempting to overrun entire police stations.
We hope Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, whose ministry is responsible for both the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the the Registrar-General’s Department, will “deal with the culprits involved” in these despicable acts of corruption.
In a televised interview with ZBC-TV last year, President Mnangagwa conceded that “corruption is deep rooted”.
“I thought by making a pronouncement that ‘let us fight corruption’ it will go away. No. It’s not like that. To fight corruption, you need the police to investigate, but there are elements of corruption in the police.
“Once you get past the corruption in the police, the National Prosecution Authority has to prosecute, but there are also elements of corruption in the NPA. Then the case must go to court and there are also elements that are corrupt in the judiciary. So the fight is so wide and deep,” he said.
Corruption is dehumanising, it is corrosive, it is a disease and like every other disease left untreated, it kills. This vice is now a matter of national security and authorities ought to treat it as such.
Corruption is a cancer, which takes the nation backwards and causes insecurity. Corruption is now a security threat because it is causing some individuals to create mafias or alliances for protection when found on the wrong side of the law.
Ordinary citizens expect authorities to address issues of corruption seriously because any perception of lethargy or lack of action creates disharmony and lack of public trust in institutions. We cannot allow a situation where development is stifled by individuals who want to benefit at the expense of the whole nation.
Like President Mnangagwa has repeatedly said “… the fight against corruption requires the participation of every institution and individuals for a corrupt-free society. We need the support of the population and citizens.”
Zimbabweans in every part of this country must heed the President’s call and play their part, not just for their own sake, but for future generations to inherit a better country.