Is Zimbabwe winning the fight against corruption?

We have the laws already, but lack of funding threatens to derail work to combat corruption. SOFIA MAPARUNGA speaks to ZACC chief Denford Chirindo and to people from across the political divide about what’s needed for a corruption-free Zimbabwe.

Denford Chirindo is quick to dismiss the assertion that Zimbabwe is not making progress in dealing with corruption, despite recent revelations of corruption involving senior people in government and other organisations.

“The potential for us to deal with this challenge is there, because the constitution is clear on what we must do to ensure the prevention and total eradication of corruption,” says Chirindo. “The various institutions, including the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Prosecuting Authority, were set up to ensure that corruption is dealt with at law, so this is a very good starting point for the country.”

In the past few months, Zimbabwe has been hit by the scandal of exorbitant salaries pocketed by executives in state-owned enterprises and other public entities. There have been allegations too that implicate top government chiefs in corrupt allocation of tenders.

Public institutions such as the Premier Service Medical Aid Society have hit the headlines in ‘salarygate’, in which the chief executive officer, Cuthbert Dube, was revealed to be earning a monthly salary of $230,000.

This is despite the fact that, as at December 31, 2013, the society owed service providers $38m in unpaid bills for medical services rendered to its members. This resulted in some of the institutions’ subscribers failing to get the medical services they needed at various health centres around the country.

Resource constraints

Chirindo says that fighting corruption depends on enacting clear policies that ensure justice, transparency and accountability. It’s important, therefore, for the country’s leadership to show commitment and political will towards its total eradication.

That commitment, he says, needs to be shown through making available enough resources for the ZACC to function effectively.

“Effective policies and political will alone are not enough. This has to be supported through implementation of the said policies and funding the ZACC and other organisations mandated with dealing with the scourge,” he says.

In the absence of funding, the ZACC could not effectively fulfil its mandate.

Adds Chirindo: “It is commendable that parliamentarians are playing their legislative role in contributing towards the corruption fight and this cements the fact that we are making progress.”

The country’s laws create a substantially healthy legislative framework for the total eradication of corruption. The Prevention of Corruption Act, the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act are some of the anti-corruption statutes creating an effective legal framework for a solid anti-graft mechanism.

People want change

“Members of parliament were elected by people who are fed up with corruption. I am sure that they want to be re-elected and this means that they have to represent the people and contribute meaningfully towards combating it,” says Chirindo.

“Fighting corruption is not a one-person job. There is need for a properly co- ordinated approach involving government, citizens and non governmental organisations.”

He says that without funding, however, it was very difficult to eradicate corruption and bring to book those implicated in shady dealings.

Weak discipline

Transparency International Zimbabwe director Mary Jane Ncube says that because institutions mandated with taking a leading role in promoting financial discipline and transparency in the public and private sectors were extremely weak, the country was not making headway in dealing with corruption.

“There is inherent corruption within these institutions,” she says. “Failure to respond positively and aggressively in dealing with corruption cases when the public brings such issues to light makes it difficult to reduce the practice. People feel that nothing happens to those alleged to be corrupt.”

She says citizens have lost faith in institutions such as the police and ZACC.

“We have to reform the institutions and ensure that we enact legislation that protects whistle-blowers,” she adds.

According to a research conducted by the TIZ, Zimbabwe ranked 157 out of the 177 countries included in the Corruption Index. Zimbabwe came out the most corrupt country in the Southern African Development Community as of December 2013.

Paying lip service

Deputy spokesperson for the Welshman Ncube-led MDC Kurauone Chihwayi dismisses the assertion that government is committed towards the total eradication of corruption and says politicians are paying lip service to the corruption fight.

“President Robert Mugabe is scared that if he deals with corruption, the majority of his top lieutenants are going to end up in the confines of Chikurubi maximum prison one way or another,” says Chihwayi.

“The government pays lip service to the fight and we are not going anywhere unless we investigate all these alleged corruption cases that have been brought to the attention of the public in the past few months.”

Chihwayi says recent exposés are just the tip of the iceberg, so it’s important for the institutions mandated with investigating corruption cases to move quickly.

“We need to shift from the partisan approach in dealing with corruption because, if we continue doing that, we are increasing the cancer,” says Chihwayi. “There are members of society who will engage in corrupt dealings knowing that they can never be prosecuted because of their political affiliation.”

MDC-T MP for Mufakose Paurina Mpariwa says: “Zimbabweans should develop a culture of taking part in parliamentary proceedings as a way of supporting legislators who move motions on corruption.

“Civil society organisations should furnish government through various parliamentary committees and legislators with their findings on corruption.”

She says networks and partnerships across all the sectors are needed as a strategy for fighting corruption.

“We should involve faith-based organisations because of their role in people’s lives,” she adds.

Zanu (PF) Goromonzi West legislator and the Zimbabwean Women Parliamentary Caucus chair, Beatrice Nyamupinga, said female legislators were concerned with the high levels of corruption in the country because corruption affected women most.

“Female parliamentarians are women of quality who are able to champion corruption at the legislative level. However, they need extra capacity building to make them conversant with the various research done by civil society organisations,” says Nyamupinga.

She says that because the focus is on chief executive officers, the corruption affecting mostly grassroots women is neglected, and yet it disadvantages the majority of the women involved in small- to medium-sized enterprises.

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