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News Editor’s Memo

Mangwana’s puerile theatrics unhelpful

MINISTER of State Enterprises, Anti-Monopolies and Anti-Corruption Paul Mangwana made headline-grabbing remarks at the weekend in the

press when he claimed corruption allegations against top government officials in the Ziscosteel scandal were “red-herring cases”.

Speaking head-in-the-clouds in the Herald, Mangwana said it was irrelevant that government officials had allegedly abused public funds on extravagant hotels bookings, air tickets, food and drinks, and entertainment allowances on missions that had nothing to do with Zisco.

Mangwana said reporting accusations against his government colleagues meant people’s attention would be shifted away from the “correct focus”. He also suggested that exposing them for graft was “scoring cheap political points”. The media, he said, should focus on the activities of Zisco managers, not those of the ministers. It was indeed a dramatic performance by him.

This means Mangwana is not concerned about political corruption, an abuse by government officials of their office for illegitimate, private gain. The end-point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, literally “rule by thieves”.

Here we are with a minister of “Anti-corruption”, currently also acting as Information minister, describing very serious allegations of corruption as “red-herrings” and exposing graft as “scoring cheap political points”. This is the same minister who in September told us in an interview: “Very soon we will take action and police will arrest those involved in corruption at Ziscosteel.”

Can the minister tell us who has so far been arrested in connection with Zisco? Will there ever be a probe into the issue when he describes pillaging of public funds and key leads into possibly deep-rooted corruption as non-issues?

To dramatise his antics, Mangwana at one time in September told the Voice of America that he would not discuss the NECI report on Zisco because it was a “state security document”.

How does a report which exposes corruption and abuse of public funds become a state secret? Is hiding blatant corruption in the interest of state security in Mangwana’s view?

Is that what he wants to tell taxpayers and investors when explaining government policy on corruption?

Besides that, it would be interesting to know why Mangwana is speaking on behalf of the Anti-Corruption Commission — which is a statutory body established in terms of the constitution — when it actually has its own staff and chairman.

Everytime he does this he actually undermines the commission because it is supposed to be an independent constitutional body that discharges its functions without interference from him or anybody for that matter.

The commission is empowered under the Anti-Corruption Commission Act to “combat corruption, theft, misappropriation, abuse of power and other improprieties on the conduct of affairs in both the public and private sectors”. It also has the mandate to exercise its powers concurrently with those of the police, meaning it is authorised, working with police, the courts and the Attorney-General’s Office, to raid premises, search and seize documents in its normal course of duty.

The commission can do this on its own initiative, according to the law. So why is Mangwana pretending to be its CEO and spokesman?

Mangwana’s role, in terms of the law, is largely administrative. He is only supposed to receive reports from the commission and then to report to parliament. He is also expected to deal with the regulation, funding and staffing of the commission, not its investigations and the contents of its reports.

In the end what Mangwana has been doing posturing as a ministerial investigator under the Anti-Corruption Commission may very well have been illegal.

By the way, what does Mangwana understand by corruption? Our understanding is that corruption is a general concept describing any abuse of public or private office, position or trust for personal gain and other illegitimate forms of self-enrichment.

There are different forms of corruption, including rent-seeking which is the process where an individual or organisation seeks to benefit through manipulation of the economic environment, rather than through trade and production. There is cronyism, nepotism, patronage, extortion, bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, drug trafficking, and organsied crime. Most of these flourish in Zimbabwe today.

Effects of corruption on politics, public administration, and institutions are very critical. Corruption undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes.

It also thwarts development because it causes considerable economic distortions and inefficiencies. Economists argue that one of the factors behind the underdevelopment of Africa and Asia, apart from current global dynamics and historical circumstances, is corruption. This claim is given credence by Mangwana’s virtual defence of corrupt activities as he did on Saturday.

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