ON 2015 New Year’s Eve — December 31 2014 to be precise — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech on national television was almost pitch-perfect.
Xi was in Harare this week and his speech deserves to be revisited as it showed the difference between him and his host President Robert Mugabe who was basking in the glory on his visit without embracing what his Sino friends have been doing to develop the economy and saying on reform and leadership renewal. Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from China. Highlighting continued economic growth and rising living standard in 2014, Xi said he wanted to “click the ‘like’ button”for the country’s 1,3 billion citizens, whose “support for officials at all levels” made such achievements possible.
The Chinese leader, also head of the ruling Communist party as well as the world’s largest standing army, promised deeper reforms and the rule of law in 2015, comparing them to “a bird’s two wings.” The 61-year-old leader — 30 years Mugabe’s junior — reiterated his “zero-tolerance” stance to graft, vowing to keep “waving high the sword against corruption” and “fastening the cage of regulations.”
While applauded by many ordinary citizens, Xi’s ever-wider dragnet on corruption has also attracted increasing scrutiny as some began to compare it with Mao Zedong’s use of a crackdown on the vice to achieve political agendas.
But the consensus is that Xi is doing to the right thing. He has done in three years what Mugabe has failed to do in 35 years, not just on running the economy but also combating corruption. Xi’s unprecedented anti-corruption campaign is targeting party, government, military and state-owned company officials suspected of corruption after he came to power in late 2012.
The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, headed by Politburo Standing Committee member and key Xi ally Wang Qishan, has played a central role in this campaign, in which hundreds of officials across the nation have been investigated and prosecuted. This has seen Xi break powerful cliques involving an intricate web of officials, cronies and tycoons as well as billions of dollars worth of deals and bribes. He took down former domestic security czar Zhou Yongkang; General Xu Caihou, once the military’s second-in-command; and Ling Jihua, a top aide to ex-President Hu Jintao. Chinese state media have touted them as the three biggest “tigers” caught in Xi’s anti-graft campaign, with a stated goal of targeting both “tigers and flies” — high and low-ranking officials. He also arrested a number of other to officials, including Jiang Jiemin and Bo Xilai.
In Zimbabwe, Mugabe and his ministers have been making anti-corruption noises and putting structures to combat the vice, but the trouble has been lack of political will and failure to tackle corrupt elements right at the top echelons of power. The problem here is that the system is largely corrupt to the core and its leaders are main drivers of corruption. They are at the forefront of rent-seeking and stealing. Actually corruption has of late been intensifying in government. It’s now like official policy. As Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has said before if the fight against corruption is to succeed, Zimbabwe must be ruthless in fighting it like China. No one must be untouchable. Mugabe must take the lead, but can he really do that?