HomeEditorial CommentYou just have to act now, Mr President

You just have to act now, Mr President

“You think it’s corruption when a hungry clerk at the passport office asks for a US$10 gift in order to expedite the processing of your travel documents?

From The Editor’s Desk with Walter Marwizi

“No Oga [senior], that is not corruption. In Abuja, a whole government plane disappears with its cargo and no one bats an eyelid.”
This was a Nigerian journalist speaking about corruption in his country years ago at a workshop held in South Africa.

The journalist went on to divulge details about how corrupt politicians and their protégés had gotten rich overnight, thanks to underhand dealings that flourished in Nigeria after the discovery there of petroleum and natural gas.

I reflected on that conversation yesterday as I rummaged through documents exposing how Air Zimbabwe was reduced to a shell by corrupt officials. The Air Zim case and other revelations of the looting at ZBC, Zinwa, Zesa etc. over the past few weeks shows Zimbabwe is fast catching up with Nigeria and other countries that rank high on the corruption index.

Like that nefarious weed, hyacinth, which is choking Lake Chivero, corruption has spread its tentacles across both the public and private sectors in Zimbabwe and nothing is being done to stop it.

It’s no longer the small boys at the passport office engaging in petty corruption who are the culprits but the big boys who have taken over. Through an elaborate scheme of manipulating government tenders, there are a few individuals who are pocketing jaw-dropping sums of money, while taxpayers wallow in poverty.

Chief executive officers, charged with safeguarding company resources, are pillaging them in an unprecedented manner.

Just how this rot has been allowed to reach these levels in a country which boasts of an Anti-Corruption Commission, never mind the scope of its influence, begs answers. The state of affairs in this country today belongs to Somalia, a failed state, not Zimbabwe which has a competent police force and a fairly reliable justice system.

The striking thing about the Zimbabwe scenario is failure by government to act on the graft scourge. President Robert Mugabe has so far appeared either unprepared or unable to show leadership in the fight against corruption.

The only time Mugabe spoke forcefully against corruption was on September 17 last year, when he accused former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation board chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa of soliciting for a US$6 million bribe from a Ghanaian firm that intended to invest in mining diamonds at Chiadzwa.

A furious Mugabe promised the nation that justice would take its course, but months down the line, the case appears dead in the water.

Such inaction has encouraged those who are disposed towards self-enrichment to go about their filthy ways without second thoughts. They have looted diamonds, farm machinery, farms and anything they could lay their hands on with reckless abandon.

On Wednesday, Air Zimbabwe company secretary Grace Nyaradzo Pfumbidzayi (48) was arrested on charges of fraud and criminal abuse of duty.

She stands accused of swindling the airline of more than
5 895 695 euro and US$1 298 827.

Pfumbidzayi’s arrest, while welcome, will do little to restore public confidence in the country’s leadership, or to assuage concerns that there is no political will to fight corruption. Though her case is serious, anti-graft crusaders see her as a “small fish” in the fight against graft.

The Standard is certainly aware of the “bigger fish” out there that have been fingered in mega corruption deals who remain free as birds.

Who doesn’t know that the Grain Marketing Board was looted to the ground by chefs who got inputs and never paid for them.

Arda was also stripped dry by known culprits who remain in positions of trust and influence in government. Chefs still owe huge amounts to Zesa and Zinwa and they refuse to pay because they are untouchable… they have simply scrapped them under the pretext of helping the masses.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru told the nation that by scrapping the bills Zimbabweans would enjoy the fruits of their independence!

It is common knowledge that Marange diamonds have been looted and that there were so many unsavoury deals that have taken place, even in public, over the past few years. Up to now, diamond mining activities remain opaque, and the nation doesn’t know the quantities of diamonds mined or the revenues generated since the discovery of the gems.

We hear that despite all the publicised reports of the retirement of PSMAS CEO Cuthbert Dube, whose US$230 000 salary outraged the nation, the man remains ensconced in his office — running business as usual!

In fact, Dube has the audacity to use the law to gag the media over his salary and fate. But then the man could be right. If Dube was indeed retired, how come he is still sitting in his office today? Who is fooling who here?

And still, how many current or ex-ministers (including those from the MDC) can stand up and declare that they have never illicitly benefitted from parastatals that fell under their portfolios.

The Standard is aware of a senior government official who has earned himself the nickname “Mr 10 percent”. We will not mention him on this platform because of legal reasons, but his links to many tenderprenuers are legendary. That is why we do not believe reports that Mugabe is “angry” about corruption.

If he indeed is angry, why isn’t he acting against those accused of looting state entities? The evidence that he has demanded before, abounds.

The new Minister of Mines Walter Chidhakwa last year told The Standard that he had been offered bribes, just a few days after assuming office. To date, no one has been arrested for that crime.

ZBC workers complained ad infinitum that CEO Happison Muchechetere and his managers were getting huge salaries as workers went for six months without their salaries. Secretary for information George Charamba knew about it and even wrote a complaint memo to the relevant minister, but nothing was done then. We can’t believe Mugabe did not know anything about this matter.

If Mugabe is indeed outraged by the looting at parastatals, he should order a commission of inquiry that will probe the goings-on at these organisations, otherwise Zimbawe will turn into another Abuja, where corruption stinks to high heaven!

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