The Emmerson Mnangagwa (ED) administration has structured a generally inspiring Cabinet following the 2018 general elections. ED immediately vowed it was time to get to work. That’s the point. It’s not as if everything is starting on a new slate, though, so let’s take stock of the unfinished business, especially as it relates to public sector governance and corruption.
corruptionwatch WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
This new Cabinet is perhaps the best thing that ED has done since taking over from Robert Mugabe last November. Most of the old and rotten wood that remained after the soft coup has been hewed. And we have a good number of refreshing technocrats in there now, particularly Mthuli Ncube, a non-politician who now heads the Finance and Economic Development portfolio.
I don’t know much about the administration’s choice to toss Energy Mutodi in as the Information and Publicity deputy minister. My sister, a teacher — just like hundreds other civil servants — is still bitter with Mutodi who she tearfully accuses of having sunk her money in a botched housing scheme that the young politician ran. But that blemish can be easily forgotten on the fact that ED chucked out the infamous Obert Mpofu, who has lots of answers to give regarding the massive leakage of the Chiadzwa diamonds during his time as Mines minister.
In fact, going forward, Mpofu remains one of ED’s sternest tests, so let’s start from there. The new administration must never fool itself thinking that we will simply salute it for kicking Mpofu out. That was always going to be useful in the fight against corruption, yes, but, as the new executive gets to work, there must be real action. Mpofu, as it will be remembered, has an outstanding issue at Parliament. He refused to answer questions on his role in the diamond leakages during an oral hearing.
Many felt that he was supposed to be charged for contempt of Parliament, but that never happened. That doesn’t say it mustn’t happen. The next Parliament must prioritise this issue, so as for it to show that it has teeth, for a break.
But a parliamentary oral hearing is only part of the action that the administration must deliver. There are lots of reports out there, among them the June 2013 Chininga dossier, which speaks a lot on Mpofu’s intransigence during his tenure as Mines minister. Mpofu must be prosecuted. If government is not going to do that, ED and his crew will still be judged harshly for assuming that Zimbabweans can be fooled with candy floss.
Of course, Mpofu is not the only one that must get into the dock, complete with leg irons and all. This becomes particularly important considering that ED is making the fight against corruption one of his key issues in the so-called Second Republic. Someone must retrieve the list of foreign currency externalisers from wherever it was thrown into, even if that may be a reeking manhole. People have not forgotten about them. The culprits need their day in court.
By the way, where is Saviour Kasukuwere, the former Local Government minister? He returned from self-imposed exile some time back, was tried for “border jumping” and acquitted. After that, I hear, he skipped the border again and we haven’t heard about him since then. He can fly over the border or swim through the border as much as he likes, but he still needs to be probed on a litany of accusations relating to numerous cases of corruption, among them the alleged illegal sale of state land.
It would be crude to start saying things about Grace Mugabe, the former first lady. She is still mourning her mother, so she needs to be left alone for now even though we all remember the lavish lifestyle she and her family enjoyed, seemingly riding on the back of the taxpayer, the numerous shady property acquisitions and alleged human rights abuses. But I must say ED started off on a bad tangent as far as Grace is concerned, to the extent that you can say what he has done borders on abuse of office and, therefore, corruption.
ED recently hired an expensive Gulfstream 650 plane to fetch Grace from Qatar so that she could attend her mother’s funeral. On Grace’s admission, that was the best plane she had ever used all her life. After that, Grace and her husband endorsed ED as the president of Zimbabwe despite the fact that they didn’t vote for him in the July 30 presidential poll. That sounds like base horse-trading. ED, it seems, has always been anxious to get the Mugabe family on his side for political mileage. And endorsement of his disputed win can go some way to give him a morsel of legitimacy. It will also ensure that the “coup president” tag goes away, quite substantially. Again, mending ties will ensure that whatever dark pasts he shared with Mugabe are dug into the carpet.
On the other hand, Grace and Mugabe will benefit a lot from this restoration of an amicable relationship. Zanu PF had already started a retributive scheme of punishing the Mugabes. The war vets have been campaigning to reverse last year’s decision to name the Harare airport after Robert Mugabe. And ED was talking about taking away the tens of farms that the Mugabes illegally acquired, especially after the ex-president voted for Nelson Chamisa. More victimisation would follow unless the peace pipe was smoked.
Granted, the former first family must enjoy all manner of social security as part of the president’s exit package that includes using public money in times of grief such as Grace’s mother’s passing- on, but did ED have to personally intervene and charter the Gulfstream 650? Honestly, government could have placed her on the next plane from Qatar and pay for her business class ticket. That would remain cheaper than chartering a classy plane for her. That is extravagance designed to harvest personal political gain for the new president. That leaves a big blight on his purported anti-corruption crusade. At that rate, if he is not careful, his next phase of the crusade will collapse just the same way the one between November and the elections did.
The ED dispensation needs to tell us what it is going to do with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc). This commission has always been firing blank shots, probing the wrong people and messing up its investigations. Zacc is a statutory institution that, to all intents, remains crucial in the fight against corruption. But there have been issues about the quality of some of its key commissioners and investigators. What’s needed is not the establishment of a vague and even illegal anti-graft unit under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) as we saw earlier this year. Instead, Zacc needs to be given a thorough and soapy bath, and the dirty water thrown out into the sewer.
Then there is the issue of all the outstanding tender violations. Over the years, there have been so many multi-million accounts of this. There has hardly been meaningful action in dealing with these. The procurement regulatory body is now under the OPC, so expectations are high that ED will make things happen from that end. Failure to take action, again, will severely condemn him.
Let’s get the new cabinet doing its work, yes. But that work will not be a morning stroll in the park. Nor should the new administration think that people will throw their legs up in a hammock and celebrate the dispensation for the next five years. Composing a good cabinet is one thing, and getting the much-anticipated results another.
Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org