HomeOpinion & AnalysisOptions for Zim’s long road to economic justice

Options for Zim’s long road to economic justice

The ongoing trial of Core Mining and Minerals (Private) Limited Director Lovemore Kurotwi has become a platform for the pursuit for truth, justice and accountability.

Dzikamai Bere and Prosper Maguchu

Award-winning human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa is a star in the drama, playing the role that the media and civil society must be playing at a national level.

It is rare in Zimbabwe that a minister gets to be questioned on the way they manage public enterprises.

We thus find it interesting that we focus on the subject of corruption at a grand scale and how we may try to broaden the fight for justice and accountability.

The impact of corruption on fundamental freedoms can be huge. The African Union estimates that over US$150 billion is lost annually through corruption.

This is about 25% of the continent’s GDP. An analysis of the key drivers of corruption in Zimbabwe reveals that government actors lead the pack.

Transparency International in the latest report have exposed state institutions for issuing sexually transmitted degrees (STD).

It is a notorious fact that in order to get a passport in Zimbabwe you have to pay a lot of unofficial fees. It is the same with obtaining a driver’s licence.

Corruption has become so institutionalised such that when companies do their annual budgets, they budget for corruption under some fancy names like “clearing fees”.

The worst culprits in driving corruption are people known as “politically exposed person” [PEP], who are well-positioned politically — to loot with impunity.

These are well connected to the ruling class such that they use these ties to loot with impunity.

In Zimbabwe, just like in many other plundered economies, the PEPs have become a very powerful group perpetuating grand corruption, asset theft and money laundering at an international scale.

When such looting happens for a long period of time, a kind of royal lineage is then formed and the PEPs pass on their priviledges to their children and their children’s children.

If you work for any one of the big companies that benefit from PEPs, you probably have met some top government official frequenting the CEO or the MD’s office and the reasons for such visits are not clear.

PEPs damage the victims’ country’s investment climate and prospects for macroeconomic stability.

They fuel capital flight, which impedes growth and poverty reduction efforts, which heightens inequalities. We have had President Robert Mugabe complaining about the activities of the PEPs in his Cabinet.

According to Justice Cleto R Villacorta of the Philippines Regional Trial Court, the damage by this kind of corruption is long-lasting and more severe the longer a corrupt regime is in place. Corruption at that level becomes what Johane Galtung would call a “deep culture.”

It sinks its teeth deep into the heart of the system. It is believed that when corruption gets to this level, it creates a new ruling class outside the visible ruling elite and these are the forces that will hold the ruling class in power at gunpoint.
Sadly, it appears that Zimbabwe is in that state, at the ransom of PEPs.

But can there be justice for the PEPs? If hospitals are failing to provide services because resources are being looted at a grand scale, how do we deal with that? These are grand economic crimes that violate people’s rights. One cannot just go to the police station and make a report. It requires a different strategy.
Which takes us to some proposals in conclusion.

The media has a key role to play. It is difficult to deal with economic crimes when there has been no political transition. Current transitional justice mechanisms like the NPRC cannot deal with economic crimes of that magnitude. There is too much state involvement.

There is space available for non-official truth recovery processes by the independent media and civil society actors with the help of international experts. An organisation like Transparency International with strong international backing is well-positioned to spearhead truth recovery of economic crimes at an unofficial level.

The kind of truths that call for recovery are so complex but not irrecoverable. There is need to do a comprehensive investigation into past leaders of government enterprises, the movement of assets and the procurement processes.

Secondly, Section 62 of the new constitution gives a very important avenue of pushing for disclosure. It gives the right to every citizen to have access to information held by the state for purposes of public accountability. Transport and and Infrastructural Development minister Obert Mpofu who explained the source of his wealth, has given us a glimpse of where to begin.

Finally, it is not impossible to sponsor a transparency law which forces public officers into disclosure. They may not tell the whole truth, but it will give civil society and media a stepping-stone. Simple records like board minutes of a state enterprise can open a can of worms.

This information needs to be archived in a way that is useful for possible prosecution of offenders and recovery of lost assets. When the environment then permits, such information may assist future actors to recover ill-gotten wealth and adopt safeguards to ensure non-repetition.

For now, we admit that as far as Zimbabwe is concerned, it will be a long road to economic justice.

Dzikamai Bere and Prosper Maguchu contribute to this column in their personal capacity. The views contained here are not the views of the organisations they are associated with. For feedback write to dzikamaibere@gmail.com

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