The big five corruption beasts

The Zimbabwean government has just unveiled a national anti-corruption strategy. Good move. But you know how such things always come with a “but”.

corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI

Come to think about it, Zimbabwe ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption close to a decade and half ago. It’s also a signatory to Sadc and AU things on corruption. But it has taken so many donkey years to develop its own national strategy.

But, as the cliché goes, better late than never. The document looks good as a roll of paper. You quickly notice an acknowledgement by the government that fighting corruption stretches beyond just arresting people and taking them to court. Of course, the respective laws and frameworks have always been sensitive to the fact that the anti-corruption drive is more wholesome than that, just that no-one seems to have cared that much.

The new and first-ever strategy is keen to involve citizens in the fight against graft. It wants to amplify people’s voices in this scheme. It wants to educate them on their rights as fighters against corruption. It even wants to involve civil society, and is anxious to see more transparency and accountability with churches and political parties.

It’s actually saying a lot of nice things on how to stem corruption, save that it falls short on other things. For instance, the national strategy, while busy allocating roles to various agencies, doesn’t give a good job on how various interested stakeholders will proceed or work together.

The framework must be clear, not so hotchpotch as is the case, where accountability of the respective agencies is concerned. How is the Special Anti-Corruption Commission (Sacu) going to relate with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and/or the police without duplicating stuff? Where do you place other security units dealing with corruption? There must have been a clear matrix to explain this, otherwise we will end up going nowhere very fast.

Hopefully, those that produced the strategy will give it another search and make things better, going forward. But that’s not the main import of this installment. As the various anti-corruption agencies sweat on how to implement their strategy, one thing must always be clear. What are the major thematic spaces that need investigating? This is important because, whatever the anti-corruption model being enunciated there will do, the main issue is investigation, then prosecution where necessary.

You know Zimbabwe now. There is what you may call the big five. Zacc, Sacu and other players seem insufficiently sensitive to the big five and must be hastening up to come up with mini-strategies on how to fight the big five.

One, command agriculture. It’s bad in itself that the Zimbabwean government is still rattling with this scheme, which is purportedly meant to make the nation food-secure and agriculturally sound by enabling thousands of small, medium and large-scale farmers to produce crops and so on despite the big tears that it has caused for the people and country over the years.

There is no transparency in the programme. People are looting inputs. Privileged stakeholders are inflating prices and drawing dirty millions from there. There are no records of who is taking what or doing what with whatever they are getting. In fact, records are being destroyed by the leading looters so that they won’t account for the hefty loans they are getting. Criminals like the Sakunda Holdings guys that pillaged the scheme are moving around in First Street and are loving their saggy freedom.

We need to get the culprits in the dock. Why has the command agriculture scandal persisted? Who are the powerful people, who are letting the looting frenzy continue? Why have the findings and recommendations of the Auditor General’s office been ignored? Who is shredding the records? How are the common farmers cheating their way into the scheme and what are they doing with what they get?

Two, diamond mining. Diamond undermining, more precisely. Hey, do you remember that dude called Obert Mpofu? He was the Mines minister during the heydays of diamond undermining in Marange. You also remember the 2013 Mines portfolio committee report that was produced when the late Edward Chindori-Chininga was the chair?

That poor chap — may his soul rest in peace — died in a hazy road accident sometime after the report was tabled in Parliament. He stepped on quite a number of toes, it seems. The diamond industry is a dangerous field. You don’t want to disturb the big guys as they eat, so, when you do, you get into trouble. Nobody is saying Obert Mpofu was responsible. But, you see, the report damned the then minister, directly and indirectly. And it damned lots of other sensitive offices and individuals too.

The thing is, we still need to know who did what in Marange. Who was taking the diamonds and taking them out using dodgy routes? And Mpofu and others still need to be investigated over this, considering the serious allegations that the Chindori-Chininga report raised. Well, Temba Mliswa tried to haul Mpofu over the other time when he chaired the Mines portfolio in parliament. The big man refused to appear before him or anyone. Parliament would still need to hear Mpofu’s and others’ stories on this, but the anti-corruption agencies need to put pressure on the pedal too.

Still on diamonds, there is need to probe current and recent happenings there. How was Anjin readmitted into the Marange fields after being ejected for cheating in 2016? Are they producing diamonds? If so, are they selling the mineral? If so, where and how? The same goes for Al Rosa, the Russian company. What exactly is it doing? Are things being done above board? Were things done above board? You will notice that, of late, there has been some talk about secret sales of the diamonds yet the gems are supposed to run through public auctions.

Then there is the talk of town. gold smuggling. Gold leakages are well documented yet no meaningful action is being taken to arrest this malignancy. How come people are good at documenting things yet seem to be clueless when it comes to taking corrective action? But, more importantly, there is need to investigate how, exactly, the gold smuggling is taking place. It’s definitely worrying when you get to know that even airports, despite all the supposed security and sniffing, are being used to take the gold out of Zimbabwe. Who is behind this rot?

Four, the fuel industry. Clearly, so many dirty things are happening in the fuel sector. The commodity is being smuggled into the country and Zimbabwe is also being used as a smuggling channel. There is so much price fixing and the fuel, particularly petrol, diesel and LPG, is being diverted by public officials. There are fuel barons, aka cartels.

Finally, the forex black market. There are still many unanswered questions. How is the local money still getting out of the banks in large volumes despite strict caps on maximum withdrawals? What’s the role of the banks and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in this? How is the forex black market relating with the fuel black market? Et cetera.

l Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT), and can be contacted on tmajoni@idt.org.zw.

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