Edward Chindori Chininga — peace be unto his soul — died in a car accident in 2013. That was shortly after he successfully led a team of parliamentarians in unearthing the looting of diamonds in Marange.
corruptionwatch WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
Some people have linked his death to the production of the mining portfolio committee study. They suspect he shook the closet too harshly and his colleagues in Zanu PF started hating him when skeletons came tumbling out. There is some sense in this. What has come to be known as the Chininga report, indeed, made shocking revelations, directly and implicitly, about how the Zanu PF-linked elite participated in the pillage of the diamonds.
But some insist that the accident was a genuine product of fate. Those opposed to the conspiracy theory, genuinely and hypocritically, maintain that fatal accidents happen on a daily basis. That Chininga’s death was preceded by the completion of the report is neither here nor there, blah, blah, blah. In fact, I have heard some of them say Chininga was too reckless with his drinking and could have been too drunk when the accident happened.
But theories and counter-theories, all amounting to speculation, are not my concern here. What cannot be disputed is that we still talk about Chininga with admiring accents. He did an awesome job, against all odds. He had the bravery to hang his colleagues out in the lane, and showed that lawmakers can be committed to truth in their mandate to promote the interests of the electorate and Zimbabwean citizens.
There were good MPs before him, there are good legislators now, and there will be good ones tomorrow. Who will forget the late Sydney Malunga, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Margaret Dongo and Edson Jonasi Zvobgo? Also against all odds, they lit up parliament in the golden era of the legislature and spoke the truth even when there was no opposition. Not only that. Their history in their constituencies and at a more national level narrates the story of people who were solidly loyal to honesty and truth. Some people will differ with me on this, but I am dedicated to my conviction.
The current parliament and previous ones have also produced MPs who, by and large, do not hold a grudge against truth and the straight road. I admire my brother Nelson Chamisa. I hold my other brother, Kindness Paradza, in high esteem for doing his best to speak out against the rot even in his own party, Zanu PF. And I have immense respect for my sister, Jessie Majome too. Willias Madzimure — pity he is no longer there — is in the same league.
There are more to salute, of course, but it seems that just too many of our MPs are good candidates for burning hell. Not only do they think that parliament is a brawling theatre where they can abuse their privileges to produce a Hansard of obscenities. They are brazenly corrupt and some of them don’t make any apology about it. Worrying as it is, this may not be surprising. People are getting into politics for all the wrong reasons. They are going there to create opportunities to loot and plunder, not to represent the people. No single political party in Zimbabwe has a system to vet its candidates for integrity. That is not surprising, too, because those that must be doing the vetting also lack integrity.
It is bad enough for MPs to forget directions to their constituencies the moment they are voted in. And it is equally bad for them to sleep in parliament or exchange blows. But it becomes worse when they start stealing from their constituents. We saw this several years ago when scores of our lawmakers abused the Constituency Development Fund. All this with impunity. I know that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission made feeble attempts to investigate and bring the culprits to book. But I also know that their attempts came to nought. None of the offending MPs has been punished.
It is public knowledge that some of the MPs divert donations meant for poor rural villagers to their own pockets and tummies. They cheat donors and philanthropists and claim that they intend to start projects to benefit the electorate, but then a lot of them have been exposed for turning the projects into personal ventures.
It is also sad that some of these MPs play crucial national and parliamentary leadership roles. They are expected to lead by example because they have onerous responsibilities sitting on their shoulders. This brings me to a recent case which will haunt my conscience and soul for a long time.
There is a very bad guy, by his own deeds, called Christopher Chitindi. He is the lands and agriculture portfolio committee chairperson and Zanu PF MP for Muzarabani. As chair of that committee, he is supposed to lead the oversight role on public entities like the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). There is no doubt that he is doing the very opposite of that.
Recently, he was caught on tape instructing GMB to bribe journalists who were investigating the parastatal. Weirdly, he thinks that journalists go out to do their work because they want to be bribed. Also weirdly, he thinks that being a journalist means you are poor and, therefore, must be bought with a rusty piece of silver. But even more strangely, he is convinced that journalists can be bribed any time, by him or other people. He was, in fact, prepared to take responsibility for bribing the journalists for as long as they killed the story on GMB. He said it was in good faith — a good principle — that the journalists must be bribed to suppress truth!
That is not what the chair of a portfolio committee is supposed to do or be. Chairpersons of parliamentary committees are not chosen so as to sweep corruption and bad governance under the carpet. They must, instead, lead processes and efforts to ensure that there is transparency, integrity, professionalism and accountability within public and private establishments.
For as long as we have people like Chitindi as chairpersons of committees, MPs or community leaders, it must not be a wonder that all the parastatals in Zimbabwe are in the messy state that we have known them to be in for decades. It must cease to surprise us that there is festering impunity with public entities. What would you expect from the general manager of GMB if the very person who is supposed to be asking him hard questions, on the contrary, bats no eyelid and exhorts him to be corrupt?
The real problem, though, ultimately resides in us. The crude behaviour displayed by people like Chitindi and other corrupt MPs mirrors a sick society. We are the ones who have chosen them. We are the ones who also choose to let them continue with their impunity.
Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit organisation promoting access to information on public and private sector governance, transparency and accountability, and can be contacted on email@example.com.