LAST week President Robert Mugabe was at it again. He took advantage of a birthday luncheon hosted by his trusted security service chiefs and the Public Service Commission to once more fulminate against the scourge of corruption whose prevalence has shaken even those Zimbabweans who now regard it as an integral part of daily life.
Candid Comment by Stewart Chabwinja
Mugabe alleged a cabinet minister had demanded a bribe of US$70 000 while a female legislator (both unnamed) solicited a US$50 000 facilitation fee from a potential investor, as he vowed a crackdown against corruption — warning those implicated would face the wrath of the law.
Mugabe has been making a lot of noise about corrupt practices: the sensational public accusation last year that ZMDC chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa had demanded a USS$6-million bribe from Ghanaian partner in a diamond mining company, is a case in point, although he has since embarrassingly withdrawn the accusation.
At the 2012 Zanu PF conference, Mugabe slammed rampant corruption in the police and Zimra. He also fumed that former South African president Thabo Mbeki had informed him, and provided evidence, senior Zanu PF ministers had demanded a US$10 million bribe to facilitate a US$1 billion investment by ANC-linked investors.
“If I get information stating that so and so minister is doing this, he goes,” Mugabe ranted.
Needless to say, no minister has actually “gone” anywhere. So far none, in fact, has been fired in Mugabe’s 34-year rule except in the Willowgate case.
His repeated warnings against corruption have become an all-too-familiar refrain. The question is: just how many warnings does Mugabe need to issue before the culprits are brought to book? Does he feel repeated threats will suffice in curbing rampant graft? His frequent railings against corruption, which have failed to lead to action despite increasing media revelations of deep-seated malfeasance, are not helped by Mugabe’s poor governance record.
Zimbabwe’s history is replete with cases in which the corrupt have gone scot-free or with merely a slap on the wrist; the Willowgate scandal (1988), War Victims Compensation scandal (1994) and the VIP Housing scandal (1999), among others, readily come to mind.
This is why civil society groups last week dared Mugabe to put his money where his mouth is by naming, shaming and punishing cabinet ministers and other top officials implicated in corruption, instead of sounding like a broken gramophone record. Act he must, for the sake of his legacy and because, at 90, time is clearly not on his side as he fights to salvage his checkered record.
What complicates the anti-graft crusade for Mugabe is the prospect of acting against loyalists embedded in his patronage network on whom he has come to rely on for his prolonged stay in power. The same fawning clique which deifies him on public platforms, and hardly miss an opportunity to pledge unwavering loyalty to him, is corrupt.
It’s futile to hope that continued revelations of corruption and sleaze at state enterprises, councils, diamond mining companies and among his loyalists will finally force Mugabe to act. But then he must do something about corruption.