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Corruption: Govt must put systems in place

“In fact, some of the new states are, properly speaking, not states at all; rather, they are virtually the private instruments of those powerful enough to rule.” — Robin Theobald, 1982: 549

Sunday Opinion with Mfundo Mlilo

What are the public policy implications of the current salary scandals and corruption cases that have been witnessed in Zimbabwe over the past month? Is there a clear policy framework that is behind these exposures?

Is the role of Jonathan Moyo as a Zanu PF strategist in government so pronounced as to shift the attention of government towards key issues of corruption and corporate governance? Very unlikely. Has the succession debate become so ugly that Zanu PF is literally washing its dirty linen in public?

Maybe. These are some of the questions that I have been battling with over the past three weeks that perhaps have prompted this epistle.

It is no secret that the corrosive cancer of corruption has permeated virtually every facet of life, but more so in state enterprises. What has shocked many Zimbabweans is the extent to which public servants are helping themselves out of state coffers in a manner that is not only abhorrent and immoral, but also revealing about the true nature of the neo-patrimonial empire that Zanu PF has built over the past 34 years.

Zimbabwe is a classic case of how the state has virtually been taken over by a group of “big men” and cronies with alliances within and outside the state. Zanu PF is government and the government is Zanu PF.

Senior civil servants are employed on the basis of their loyalty to the party, and more recently on the basis of the factional groups within the party. It is the same networks and connections that pressured Harare Mayor, Benard Manyenyeni to rescind on his earlier decision to suspend Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi despite a full council resolution on the same.

There are some people who naively believe that Zanu PF has adopted a reform agenda and is intent on dealing with illicit and underhand dealings in government.

How can that be, who in Zanu PF specifically, when the powerful in the party seem complicit in crimes of corruption. The recent comments attributed to the Vice-President Joice Mujuru are in fact instructive. She is alleged to have said, “Nditeererei madzimai … iyi nyaya yatiri kutaura iyi yehuori hwemaparastatals muchenjere kuti ndeimwe nzira yaunzwa nevanhu vari kuda kupwanya nyika ino iyi. [Please listen to me ladies, regarding reports about corruption in parastatals — be careful — it’s another tactic being used by those keen on destroying the country).” If these are truly her comments, this clears any doubt about the state of affairs in Zanu PF and its intentions and points us to the leadership renewal crisis facing the party.

In 2010 President Mugabe and then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai launched the corporate governance code spearheaded by the then Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals, Gorden Moyo.

That document did not see light of day. In early 2013 the Anti-Corruption Commission attempted to raid the offices of former Mines minister Obert Mpofu, former Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, and former Transport minister Nicholas Goche but was forced to retreat after police and other Zanu PF leaders stopped them from the search. So this whole drama is not new and its end is predictable.

So what exactly is happening in Zanu PF and in Zimbabwe?

Firstly, there is now no doubt that there is unthinkable corruption and underhand dealings in government, that the leaders of state enterprises and parastatals are paying themselves hefty salaries that are bleeding the economy while low-level civil servants are wallowing in poverty. Secondly, the succession debate is playing out in public. It is clear that Zanu PF is teetering on the brink of an implosion.

But is this not what we have been parroting about over the past 10 years. Is this not the dominant narrative that has failed to bear any tangible positive outcomes? Clearly, Zanu PF is more complicated than meets the eye.

What is now apparent is that this party understands the logic of power retention and unless there is a new kind of civic politics that goes beyond simply exposing its illicit deals, our generation is doomed for failure.

I believe that we have to build a new kind of civic movement that has cross-sectoral connections. This civic movement must demand political reforms and the implementation of the new Constitution. It must have the capacity to hold political leaders to account for their actions.

The government must allow the Anti-Corruption Commission to perform its work without interference. The commission must be adequately funded and given legislative powers to subpoena witnesses and to investigate cases of corruption.

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