FORMER chairperson of the parastatals commission Ibbo Mandaza has blamed President Robert Mugabe for the pervasive culture of corruption at public institutions, saying the scourge which is currently being manifested through parastatal bosses’ grossly inflated salaries is unlikely to be dealt with as long as the nonagenarian remains in power.
Speaking at an Alpha Media Holdings public seminar (AMH Conversations) at a Harare hotel on Wednesday night, Mandaza said Mugabe has presided over the systematic subversion of state institutions, thus weakening and contributing to the pervasive culture of state corruption which he is now too old to control.
“In my days (as chairman of the parastatals commission, the president (Mugabe) would go through every board, every appointment of the chief executive officers as he did with respect to the appointment of ministers,” said Mandaza.
“But what has happened over the years is that this centralisation of functions in one person literally has led to an institutional framework. As is natural as he got older, he has commensurately lacked the capacity of oversight. To put it very bluntly, we have a head of state that is too old to be doing this kind of function and is therefore unable to do it.”
Mandaza also blamed Mugabe for dissolving the Parastatals Commission which he chaired from its inception in 1988 to 1990, saying the commission had done a good job in its oversight role over public institutions, which ministers had run as their personal companies.
“He (Mugabe) announced that Ibbo’s commission had done a good job but the job is finished,” said Mandaza of Mugabe’s decision to dissolve the commission which had worked to establish rules for the appointment of boards and personnel to run the institutions based on criteria of competence and national outlook.
Another speaker, executive director of Transparency International Zimbabwe Mary Jane Ncube concurred with Mandaza and castigated government for promoting corruption by subverting corporate governance and the rule of law to the politics of the ruling party.
She said “salarygate”— as the expose of “obscene” salaries at public institutions has been dubbed — is symptomatic of the “clientalism and patronage politics” of Zanu PF and questioned the sincerity of government which has no precedent of convicting anyone over corruption.
“What is the intention behind this sudden expose? Why is it advantageous to let the public know?” asked Ncube.
“There has never been a successful conviction. Who was ever convicted over Willowgate, the housing or even GMB scandals? We have commissions whose findings have never been acted upon so what is this intrigue all about now? There is no plan of action and this is another scandal that will go down in history with no lessons learnt and no action taken,” said Ncube.
Since the beginning of the year, revelations of executives of parastatals and state enterprises earning outrageous salaries and perks hit the headlines, with the most shocking being that of former Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) boss Cuthbert Dube, who was earning over US$500 000 per month.
Mandaza, who said “salarygate” started in 2009 when Zimbabwe adopted the United States dollar, however bemoaned the public’s tendency to look at the issue from a narrow and personalised manner which fails to appreciate the role of the state.
“I am surprised at the lukewarm response of the public at what has been one of the most scandalous revelations in Zimbabwe,” said Mandaza. “I do not know why the public (response) has been lukewarm and when the analysis has been done and when there have been responses, they tend to personalise and look more at the nature and content of those who run the state,” Mandaza said.
He said the salaries scandal reflects the broader problem of pervasive state corruption also seen in other scandals like in the mining sector where billions of dollars from the sale of minerals has not been accounted for.
Ncube cited stories of people being killed, beaten up or disappearing and said through such scare tactics the state security institutions had created a state of fear “within our psyche”.
“We are sitting on a lot of information we cannot move forward because of the lack of will in the police and anti-corruption commission when high-profile politicians are involved,” said Ncube.
Another speaker Procter Nyemba also lamented the pervasiveness of corruption but urged the public and civil society to work with government to achieve the desired results.
“Let us join hands with government to fight corruption,” said Nyemba who added that students in schools and universities must also be sensitised on the vice.