Saturday, September 19, 2020

Commissions are abetting corruption in Zimbabwe

Many times, we try to hide in plain sight. Like when dictatorships attach the word ‘democracy’ to their country’s official name.

There is no semblance of democracy in the ‘Democratic Republic of Korea’ nor does little Joseph Kabila want anything democratic in his ‘Democratic Republic of Congo’.

The idea here is to camouflage the real thing; how could the Democratic Republic of Congo not be a democracy when ‘democratic’ is its first name?

I thought about this as I mused over a plethora of useless Commissions in Zimbabwe, which actually do the very opposite of what they were set out to be.

I am nauseated by this week’s reports surrounding Zimbabwe’s Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, and ZANU-PF businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa.

These two are the epitome of ZANU-PF arrogance and corruption; they are in the news to show exactly how ZANU-PF operates and to prove that if you are well connected, you can literally get away with murder.

We have an anti corruption commission in Zimbabwe whose main responsibilities are “to combat corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improprieties in the conduct of affairs in both the public and private sectors.”

The anti-corruption commission is also empowered “to make recommendations to the Government and to organisations in the private sector on measures to enhance integrity and accountability and to prevent improprieties”.

The Commission was rightfully given wide ranging powers, among which is the power “to conduct investigations and inquiries on its own initiative or on receipt of complaints…”

Most importantly, the Anti-Corruption Commission is, through the Attorney-General, “to secure the prosecution of persons guilty of corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improprieties”.

Both Chombo and Chiyangwa are prime candidates for thorough investigation and prosecution if this Commission is to ever justify its existence.

Chombo is reported to own dozens and dozens of plots, houses, land, vehicles, chalets, stands and other properties around the country, including a mine, leaving everyone wondering how anyone could amass so much property and wealth at a civil servant’s salary.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) took its time and is only now saying they are going to be investigating Chombo.
Ironically, ZACC is moving in “to investigate allegations of corruption and abuse of office involving Chombo” because “businessman Phillip Chiyangwa reportedly illegally acquired vast tracts of land in and around Harare”.

Harare Mayor, Muchadeyi Masunda, confirmed that, indeed, senior members of ZACC had been to see him “looking at issues to do with corruption and abuse of office arising out of the land audit”.

Does ZACC not want to investigate how the Mugabes “own a staggering 13 farms, covering more than 15 000 hectares”, while Mugabe’s close relatives own more than twenty farms?

Is this not corruption that needs to be investigated?

Corruption leads to economic stagnation and both the people and the nation suffer.
Corruption creates poverty; corruption hinders the nation’s growth.

With corruption, the poor stand no chance of improving their lives and yet a government is in existence to improve the people’s lot, after all, it is public funds being used.

The state of affairs in our country cannot be allowed to continue.

If ZACC does its job well, I expect that one day, Mugabe and his people will go on trial for these heinous crimes.

“Business and politics can never be separated. You have to be affiliated to the correct political party and know the right people to pursue while you are at it,” Chiyangwa told some students at the Midlands State University last week. “When I started the Affirmative Action Group 20 years ago, I told some of my friends that I support Zanu PF and they ignored me. Right now most of them are poor because they did not follow my advice.”

While I am over-awed by businessman’s buffoonery, I am more dismayed by whoever it was who invited him to give an academic address to students at such a prestigious institution of higher learning.
I am not impressed by the plethora of commissions set up to monitor areas such as media, corruption and even human rights.

I am not impressed by the composition and work done so far by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

The setting up of such commissions has not given us the confidence that there is a watchdog monitoring any of the areas they were created to safeguard.

To the contrary, the commissions seem to have been created to protect ZANU-PF lawbreakers and harass those in the opposition ranks.

We have been betrayed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission, which went on to give broadcast licences to Mugabe loyalists to create the false impression of an abundant free media in the country.

We are insulted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission which has not delved into the serious crimes committed and that are still being committed by ZANU-PF against members of the opposition.
We were disgraced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which played a major role in denying people the services of a man and party they had voted for, culminating in the establishment of the unity government.

And the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission is unable to investigate obvious cases of corruption by those among us who are prone to bending the laws here and there.

While we appreciate the setting up of an anti-corruption commission, we expect such commission to execute its duties impartially, diligently and faithfully not in a manner that defeats the cause of justice or the purpose for which it was set up.

When such commissions are set up, the composition of those appointed to the commission must be made up of democrats who believe in the equal application of the law and who are independent servants of the people. But we have seen ZANU-PF apologists being literally hand-picked to such commissions, thereby leaving no doubt that such commissions are a facade to protect ZANU-PF people as they have their way with fellow citizens.

Transparency should be evident even in the picking of such commissioners, an undertaking that should not be left to the president.

The president has his finger in too many things, taking away the mandate from parliament or other quasi-government bodies.

While these commissions are necessary and have important roles to play in our nation, they must, of necessity, be unfettered and independent of political influence; they must be free to do their work without looking at the reaction of the President who might have appointed them. Our commissioners must owe no one anything so that they can deliver impartial judgements and decisions, unlike what we see now when even our judiciary is heavily tainted with political patronage.

Just look at the unprofessional behaviour of Johannes Tomana. Is that man an attorney general of Zimbabwe or of ZANU-PF? Shameful, is it not. This is the man who, along with the anti-corruption commission, is expected “to secure the prosecution of persons guilty of corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improprieties”.

What has the ZACC achieved so far in a country that is so much mired in corruption?
On Wednesday, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa conceded and said that corruption had become “a cancerous cell eating away the fabric of our justice delivery system”.

Chiyangwa and Chombo are offering the anti-corruption commission an opportunity to justify its existence.

Or, maybe, we need a commission to monitor the Commissions.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

ACHAP denies donor taps have run dry

The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) has denied it faces an uncertain future amid allegations that donor taps have run dry.