WHEN the ENG scandal was first exposed at the end of last year nobody could have foreseen its ramifications. Nor could Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono have realised that he had opened a Pandora’s box. The
ripple effects on the banking sector have been devastating amid calls by President Mugabe for a broad anti-corruption campaign.
The question people are asking now is whether Gono is up to the task and whether he has the resources needed to deal with a crisis of this magnitude? The stakes went higher when at the weekend the Reserve Bank released a long list of companies that have not remitted their foreign currency earnings for last year and are under investigation. But this appears to be only the tail-end of a whale.
If Mugabe is serious about fighting corruption the inquiry should suck in all those who were involved in unethical deals that led to the closure of bureaux de change. It must also scrutinise politicians selling fuel on the black market. What is going to happen to those who externalised the local currency, leaving banks almost redundant because they didn’t have cash? The inquiry would not be complete if it didn’t examine businessmen and politicians who sourced subsidised grain from the Grain Marketing Board and sold the mealie meal at extortionate prices to the hungry masses. That’s “filthy lucre”.
To execute such a task we need an independent prosecutor in the mold of Kenneth Star in the Bill Clinton inquiry, answerable only to parliament and beyond President Mugabe’s further power. The independent prosecutor should have his own investigators and a broad mandate to probe suspected cases of money laundering, illegal dealing in foreign currency, minerals, and insider trading on the ZSE. He should have enough power to tackle politicians and no patent crime should be set beyond the ambit of law enforcement agencies.
This will obviate the need for the president to use “patently unconstitutional” instruments such as the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) regulations as is the case now. Such an approach will not only broaden the scope of investigations but will also speed up the prosecution process to avoid the long detention of suspects.
Making the independent prosecutor answerable only to parliament does not in any way impugn President Mugabe’s own commitment to fight corruption. What it does is give the campaign a national character. Rather than the anti-graft campaign being viewed as a Mugabe election gambit, people need to feel that they own the process, that it is enduring and fair. As it is there is a lot of scepticism about the timing ahead of a crucial parliamentary election.
Nor is it healthy for Gono to be seen as settling scores with old rivals in his clean-up of the financial sector. A victim complex is being allowed to develop. The aspersions against Gono are not helped by the fact that most of the victims of his monetary policy have so far been banking institutions. This was to be expected as it is a field in which Gono has a lot of experience.
But that is also the source of his limitations.
An independent prosecutor and his multi-skilled investigators should come in handy. There are lots of hyenas looting gold quarries across the country and others slouching on ill-gotten farms they cannot use. The parastatals are a major drain on the fiscus while civil servants have all but turned government offices into mini-fleamarkets. A major clean-up is long overdue.
If Mugabe wants to be believed he has to state categorically that violence will not be tolerated as a means to power. It is not enough for him to denounce only people using money to buy their way into power. If the anti-corruption campaign is a time for a new hope and national regeneration, it must cover all facets of our social, economic and political life.
Most skilled people are leaving the country en mass because of the current crisis and the anxiety associated with our often violent elections. So long as people in the Diaspora feel that the money they send home through the official channels will abet Zanu PF tyranny, there will be very little of it flowing into the system. And we need tonnes of forex.
No amount of sunshine journalism about a resurgent economy can hide the fact that there is very little foreign currency to trade on the auction system. In essence problems of fuel, electricity, transport and drug shortages will be with us for a long time. Gono cannot solve problems of lawlessness and human rights abuses that rightly should be the domain of politicians. ENG cannot be blamed for our current political and economic problems.