President Emmerson Mnangagwa has mentioned the word “corruption” at least eight times in less than a month. From the time Robert Mugabe expelled him as vice-president and he fled into temporary exile, to after his inauguration to replace his erstwhile boss after a military coup which replaced a bedroom coup. All the time, he pronounced a huge appetite to fight corruption as one means to fix the economy and restore confidence in the public sector and Zimbabwe.
Corruptionwatch with Tapiwa Majoni
Well, many people are still finding it difficult to have faith in his anti-corruption talk because there has been lots of talk on how corrupt the new president has been in the past. But continually referring to Mnangagwa’s reported dirty history may be missing the point. They call it argumentum ad hominem in the science of reasoning. That is when you wrongly focus on the messenger and neglect the message. A fallacy whereby you dismiss the message because you insist the one that brings it is tainted. Worse, the sceptics seem to rigidly assume that people can’t transform for the better.
Come to think about it, Mnangagwa has little choice. He is under immense pressure to prove a lot of points in a very short time. He needs to demonstrate that he has shifted from a dark past that Mugabe presided over. He needs to get the economy working once again to endear himself with the electorate ahead of the 2018 elections that he and his party want to win again.
But then, he also needs to show the West and other international powers that helped him replace Mugabe that he deserves their support by fighting corruption.
And I must say the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) provides a good opportunity for him to be draining the swamp. What Mnangagwa does to and with the commission is definitely going to determine his rating because Zacc wields a lot of potential to substantively undercut public-private sector corruption if properly managed.
Zacc is an independent commission set up in terms of sections 254 through 257 of Part 1, Chapter 13 of the Constitution amended in 2013. The functions and objectives of the commission include investigating and exposing corruption in the private and public sectors, promoting honesty, financial discipline and transparency, receiving and considering complaints from the public and taking appropriate action.
The problem, though, is that, since its establishment in 2005, it has been such a big yawn and has scored acutely poorly in all its stated mandates. In the last 12 years, the commission has initiated scores of investigations. It has activated numerous arrests and taken a few cases to court. Sadly, the majority of the cases that it initiated have been shelved or abandoned. The last time I checked, it had fixed only one conviction. This is the case that relates to Godfrey Tanyanyiwa, the former Chitungwiza town clerk who was jailed for corruption in 2013. In its 2016 report, Zacc indicated that it was investigating numerous high-profile figures who included cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries. Nothing has come out of that.
The commission bungled its investigations in the case of two senior Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation employees — Patrick Mavhura and Bernard Shumba — who were acquitted earlier this year on allegations of abusing their office in the purchase of vehicles. The case crumbled on a technicality because the two had been identified in prosecution documentation as public officers.
This bungling is one of the many instances that illustrate why and how the commission is failing to fulfil its mandate. In the main, it betrays the skewed nature of human resource allocations at Zacc. Ordinarily, investigators and Zacc commissioners must have known that Mavhura and Shumba are not public officers and should therefore have described them appropriately in their documentation. Yet this obvious fact escaped everyone. Well, at least the ones that call the shots at Zacc.
This must not surprise you because the wrong people are doing all sorts of wrong things at the commission. I have no bone to chew with Goodson Nguni, the commissioner who currently heads the investigations committee, but I don’t believe he is the right person to be leading that portfolio. You need a person with a track record in investigations to occupy that position and Nguni doesn’t have such.
Oddly, there are two former police assistant commissioners who are part of the nine executive commissioners at Zacc — Christine Fundira and Boyana Ndou. It would, therefore, make better sense for either of them to lead the investigations committee. Ndou has been made to head the audits committee and Fundira is now tucked away in the external relations portfolio. In fact, she was at one time in the investigations committee but was transferred under what I think are hazy circumstances. I know her as a straightforward, God-fearing woman who brooks no nonsense. You, therefore, can’t fault sceptics for assuming it is those otherwise desirable qualities that triggered her transfer. And that would be hugely ironic, if not absurd.
I discovered with shock that Zacc has neither an investigations manual nor a code that guides conduct and operations. Yet, since its establishment, it has mostly trained its focus on doing investigations at the expense of its other mandates as spelt out under Chapter 13 of the constitution. There are no guidelines on how cases are allocated or tracked. How, then, can you do proper investigations if you don’t have laid-down procedures to guide you on how to do your work? How do you handle issues to do with transparency and accountability in your work?
These two questions become crucial upon the reality that, even as Zacc is supposed to be an institution guaranteeing accountability, its processes have been far from being accountable. Some individuals at the commission have for a long time highly likely used their positions of influence to take up or suppress complaints, depending on the crest of interests they perch on. What this entails is that an influential individual will choose what to investigate and how it will be investigated. This is because, at the end of the day, there are no rules or regulations that make them accountable.
The commission must explain how and why cases relating to Ignatius Chombo and Saviour Kasukuwere, whose investigations were initiated around 2014, were stopped. But I have a suspicion. The bigwigs must have complained to some key members of the commission that they were being targeted and those members must then have ordered a stop to the investigations. And these are things that happen when there no guidelines or rules. Two things emerge from this. The ministers who were being targeted used their political muscle to muzzle the investigations or someone got bribed to kill the investigations. The third possibility is that political influence and bribes were combined to kill the cases.
You cannot underestimate the possibility of bribery in circumstances where there is no accountability. I’m still to come to terms with the fact that one key investigator in the Zimdef case, Servious Kufandada, then the chief investigations officer, ended up being employed by the very organisation that Zacc was investigating. There is a high possibility that Kufandada was working with the accused persons to either leak information (possibly the audio recordings of internal discussions that ended up in the hands of one of the accused persons, former minister Jonathan Moyo) or connive to complicate investigations for a job in return. That betrays a good chance of internal backbiting, treachery and sabotage. These are just my thoughts and not a statement of facts.
It also seems Zacc has been reduced to a theatre where cronies, friends and relatives are given tenancy. There are several people who have been given jobs that they don’t merit. For instance, there is one lady who was fished from nowhere and planted right in the middle of Zacc’s investigations merely because she is related to a politician who had much influence before the military intervention. There is no wonder, therefore, that Zacc fails to understand that a ZBC acting CEO is not a public officer.
But the culture of accommodation has apparently extended to the commissioners, all of who are executive. It doesn’t make sense to make all the nine of them executive commissioners who draw salaries from the commission for doing virtually nothing besides coming for meetings, snoozing through them and getting hefty allowances two or three hours later. What complicates matters is that the commission has a clumsy organogram whereby, in reality, all the commissioners wield the same powers. This makes it difficult for them to account each other and this could explain why Zacc is in such a mess. The head is only superior in so far as he can chair meetings.
In the 2018 national budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was right to abolish executive commissionership in the various commissions which, combined, was chewing up some $3,8 million in salaries and allowances. Only chairpersons will be allowed to earn full-time salaries.
Granted, the political elite has manipulated Zacc in some way, but most of the factors driving incompetence and ineffectiveness there are due to the form and systems at the commission that the big wigs then take advantage of.
Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT)