HomeLettersPolitics derails anti-corruption agenda

Council to Blame for Hazardous Trenches

Persistent structural problems and clientelistic politics by the parties in the inclusive government have hampered the anti-corruption agenda.

The Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed between Zanu PF and the MDC parties on September 15 2008 brought back smiles on the faces of many Zimbabweans who thought this political pact represented a new political dispensation. Despite the rhetorical commitments to end corruption, the inclusive government has failed to put in place mechanisms to address this problem in its three years of existence.

If anything there is lack of political will by elites across the political spectrum to deal with corruption in concrete ways. The battle against corruption has been lost to partisan politics and the persistence of political clientelism in which Zanu PF and MDC politicians seek to perpetuate their stay in office through appropriation of public resources not for the public good but for political survival.

The thinking and justification behind this primitive accumulation by our leaders in is that “a goat eats where it is tethered”.

The creation of parallel government structures to rival official ones has meant that there are some public servants in the inclusive government who engage in shady corrupt deals and are not asked to account because they enjoy the protection of their party, whether Zanu PF or MDC. There is a high premium that is placed on partisan politics at the expense of a more civic and bi-partisan approach to issues. MDC ministers are undermined by permanent secretaries who owe their loyalty to President Robert Mugabe.

If the inclusive government was working properly, one would expect Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to be allowed to steer the noble Government Work Programme (GWP) and monitor public policy implementation. In the absence of a harmonious working relationship between the three parties in the inclusive government it is going to be difficult to stem corruption and hold officials accountable.

 

For instance: what is the nature of the military involvement in the extractive industry particularly the diamonds at Chiadzwa? How much of our land and mines have we given to the so-called “all-weather” Chinese friends? Which arm of government is overseeing these deals so that it is established whether they benefit the people of Zimbabwe or members of a political party?

The discovery of diamonds has further strengthened Zanu PF’s resolve to cling to power and ensure that it is a major beneficiary from the country’s resources.

 

Recent reports of high-level corruption involving Zanu PF ministers have not been investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission or police. In a democratic country with viable institutions, anti-corruption bodies are expected to investigate statements such as reports by Finance minister Tendai Biti that treasury is not receiving funds from diamond mining. The silence by the anti-corruption watchdogs is hypocritical and gives credence to reports that the body is an appendage of the executive. 

Some public officials and securocrats are taking advantage of this disharmony to exploit the absence of accountability mechanisms in government to enrich themselves. There are some MPs, councillors and government bureaucrats who think that they should make the most out of this arrangement because there is no guarantee they will retain their positions when a new government is elected into office in the next elections.

 

Whilst the parties in the inclusive government are fighting each other on the political front there is also evidence of consensus on the appropriation of economic opportunities for personal gain by officials from across the political divide. Some euphemistically call this inclusive looting, citing the involvement of some MDC officials in corrupt deals. The talk about community empowerment by these leaders is only rhetorical.

The example that is commonly cited is when these elites influence the award of government tenders to companies that they have business interests. A more sophisticated version of this political corruption is when both MDC and Zanu PF ministers sponsor the debate and adoption of legislation by parliament that is favourable to their business interests without declaring conflict of interest. 

The controversy surrounding the looting of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) by both Zanu PF and MDC MPs is one example of the rot in the inclusive government. Recent press reports that the issue of MPs who have abused CDF will be referred to the principals (Mugabe, Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara) and not to the Anti-Corruption Commission or police demonstrate that something is wrong with our politics. Looting CDF funds is a criminal issue which must be referred to the police for further investigation and prosecution.

To prove that some people are more equal than others, we hear that some MPs who have failed to account for the CDFs have been given a moratorium by the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs to prove what they used the funds for; even when it is clear that the funds were looted. On the other hand, whilst corruption is synonymous with Zanu PF’s 30 years in power, there is a real danger that allegations of corruption against some senior MDC politicians will erode the credibility of the MDC parties as viable alternatives to Zanu PF’s misrule. If Zanu PF fails to destroy the political careers of some MDC politicians through exposing sexual scandals they will surely turn to corruption.

The rot in local authorities and poor service delivery throughout the country cannot be divorced from the structural deficiencies that characterise the inclusive government. This is exacerbated by local government legislation that is undemocratic and vests in the Minister of Local government “imperial” powers that allow him to interfere with the day-to-day running of local authorities.

 

The legislation vests too much power in the Minister of Local Government, Ignatious Chombo, including the power to sack democratically-elected councilors on flimsy charges of incompetence. Many MDC councillors have fallen victim to Chombo’s shenanigans. Without democratising local government and giving it the protection of the law by including it in the new constitution it would be difficult for government to rid local authorities of corruption.

Most local authorities have dysfunctional political and technical structures which cannot work properly. Seeing that Zanu PF would lose the majority of local authorities under their control in the 2008 harmonised elections, Zanu PF devised a strategy to neutralise this influence by introducing an amendment to the Urban Councils Act. Mirroring the disharmony at the higher echelons of government where MDC ministers are continuously undermined by permanent secretaries who owe their allegiance  to Mugabe.

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