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Tables turn on anti-graft crusaders

FOR many Zimbabweans, Zanu PF Hurungwe East Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa, along with several other MPs, has been a breath of fresh air as he has not only been vocal in the National Assembly and media against corruption, but has queried the wealth of some senior party members.

Kudzai Kuwaza

But this week Mliswa sensationally found himself in the eye of a storm.

He is accused by businessman Billy Rautenbach of extortion after demanding US$165 million in kickbacks, accusations Mliswa has vigorously denied saying he is entitled to the money for his services in helping Rautenbach secure lucrative deals.

The accusations come soon after outspoken Mliswa recently challenged cabinet ministers to disclose the nature of their businesses and how they got millions of dollars to establish them when the economy was under-performing while they earned modest salaries.

In 2010, Mliswa was arrested after accusing then police commissioner Augustine Chihuri of being the most corrupt person in the country, and allegations against him soon piled up as he was denied bail. He was however exonerated of all charges.
Last year, MDC-T officials were arrested on allegations of compiling “dockets” against Zanu PF officials they accused of being corrupt.

These cases, and the crippling of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) after clashes with political authorities, suggest the fight against corruption, while taking up much media space and dominating debate, is yet to gain traction.

The setting up of Zacc by government in 2005 appeared a bold step in clamping down on the vice. It seemed finally Zimbabwe had its own version of the disbanded South African investigations crack unit, the Directorate of Special Operations aka the Scorpions, which would take the bull by the horns in combating corruption.

Sadly this has proved to be wishful thinking as nine years on Zacc remains ineffective, understaffed and grossly underfunded.

At a time the issue of corruption has taken centre-stage in the country, the commission, which is supposed to take the lead in combating corruption, is seriously understaffed with only 32% of the approved establishment in place since swearing in three years ago, according to its website.

Zacc has been labelled a toothless bulldog. Statistics by Zimbabwe Open University lecturer Tobias Guzura provided at a recent public lecture organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe, show out of 147 corruption cases reviewed by Zacc in 2006, only four were completed.

Nowhere was this more illustrated than when Zacc attempted to conduct searches of the offices of the then minister of Mines and Indigenisation, Obert Mpofu and Saviour Kasukuwere respectively, as well as then Transport minister Nicholas Goche last year.

Zacc obtained search warrants from the High Court to search and seize certain documents from the offices of the three ministers.
However, the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation sought an interdict through an urgent chamber application that saw Judge President George Chiweshe ruling in their favour.

It argued that the search warrants that were obtained in terms of Section 50(1) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act were wrongly issued.

Justice Chiweshe granted the order and barred the commission from executing the search warrant issued by the High Court.

Zacc chairman Denford Chirindo, whose commission was sworn in September 2011, admitted in an interview with a local weekly that mistakes had been made, but that did not mean the allegations were baseless. The commission then came under attack, with allegations that they had been seriously compromised by US$5,5 million assistance from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Chirindo told the Zimbabwe Independent earlier this year that it was unfair to brand the commission a failure when it never had adequate resources to carry out its mandate to curb graft in the first place.

“From the time we came into office, there was a recruitment freeze by government and those who were there (staff) were inadequate by far,” Chirindo said.

He added that it was the prerogative of parliament as enshrined in Section 322 of the constitution and the government, through its parent ministry of Home Affairs, as protected in section 325 of the constitution, to ensure Zacc was adequately funded.

“Parliament was chosen by the people who are fed up with corruption and they approve the budget allocation of government. You need to ask parliament, do they still want the commission or they don’t want it,” Chirindo said.

His exasperation on the state of affairs is backed by the omission of Zacc by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in his 2014 national budget presentation in December last year when the commission had gone without funding since August last year.

Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza bemoaned the pathetic state of the commission.

“The commission is there in name only but there is no money,” Mandaza said.

He said the setting up of Zacc was a stark admission of failure to stem the tide of corruption in the country which has now become institutionalised.

Mandaza said in a situation where there was a conflation of the state and party such as in Zimbabwe, there is bound to be interference in the commission’s affairs.

Political analyst Brian Raftopoulos believes it is imperative that the commission continues to operate despite the various hurdles it faces in its operations.

“I think an anti-corruption commission is necessary in Zimbabwe,” Raftopoulos said.

“Zanu PF has been trying to undermine and to debilitate it from the days of the Global Political Agreement and also through lack of funding.”

He said the battle to set up an effective and substantive commission should not be given up but intensified.

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