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Mugabe not serious about fighting graft

Zimbabwe’s economy has been gradually declining for the 35 years that Zanu PF has been in power thanks to the pursuit of populist economic policies and an extractive mentality highly rooted in the belief that politicians, especially Zanu PF “chefs”, are entitled to stealing national resources with state guaranteed impunity. The economy that was once the Jewel of Africa, has been milked hard by Zanu PF political criminals and that the looters have decided to eat the cow itself rather than milking it is now very evident and makes things worse.

Jealousy Mawarire Political Analyst

We have heard President Robert Mugabe and his sycophantic bootlickers apportion blame for the economic malaise to economic sanctions imposed by the West yet in other forums he has correctly declared corruption “as our number one enemy” which is entirely the truth but the very thing that his government has thrived on; the blood that his party has used to win elections.

At every turn, in the short history of this country, Mugabe and his regime have taken opportunity to loot national resources under the guise of populist economic policies, righting colonial wrongs, or empowering the black majority.

If one looks at the War Victims Compensation Fund, you can begin to understand that this government has a perchance for imposing untenable economically haemorrhaging policies in order to create opportunity for organised looting. Millions of United States dollars were misused to pay “compensation” to former freedom fighters, outwardly a noble idea, but principally a looting avenue that Mugabe and his cronies introduced so they could “legitimately” siphon money from national coffers for personal benefits.

You can see the immorality and untenability of the looting exercise if you view the actions of very few principled people like former vice-president Joice Mujuru who, in 1997, saw the folly of participating in such blatant looting and returned the Z$390 000 that she had been paid by government.

When morally astute and sensible leaders rise above the primitive looting mentality in Zanu PF, they are chided and Mujuru attracted the ire of many of her comrades, including the late liberation war veteran Edgar Tekere, when she decided not to partake in the looting of national coffers under the guise of compensating war victims.

Tekere, then, said he thought “she (Mujuru) behaved very funny” (by returning the money) and that he “didn’t know why she suddenly feels embarrassed that she got the money” and further tried to explain Mujuru’s principled and incorruptible gesture as “a psychiatric case that needed psychiatric attention due to the trauma she went through (during the war)” (Herald, September 9 1997, Day 14 Chidyausiku Commission of Inquiry into the administration of the War Victims Compensation Fund). That is the mentality in Zanu PF and government today, if you are not corrupt, you are a mental patient who needs his/her head examined.

Apart from the War Victims Compensation Fund, Mugabe’s government has also embarked on the land reform in 2000, another organised looting jamboree that had serious repercussions on the economy.

White-owned farms were looted, owners killed, livestock and in some cases wild animals, were killed for very small amounts. Legislation was enacted to justify the barbaric looting and a massive propaganda campaign was launched to give it a humanitarian, decolonisation and social justice façade yet it is blatantly clear that this was a politically expedient exercise organised by the state, supported by legislation and corrupt state actors.

No one can dispute that after the war of liberation there was need for land reform, but it is also clear that Zanu PF has never wanted a landed black middle-class, hence the chaotic land-grab which yielded farmers without title deeds who owe their stay on the land to their Zanu PF membership. Once you get out of Zanu PF, the land ceases to be yours and becomes susceptible to new invasions by Zanu PF zealots.

Another blatant example of state-organised racketeering by regulation is the indigenisation campaign where existing companies are forced to cede 51% of their shares to so-called black investors.

The plundering exercise, like the land reform, has been legislated and the minister who was responsible for its enforcement at the very beginning, became an instant millionaire who suddenly felt an urge to build a 50-bedroomed house to accommodate the vast loot coming from the indigenisation exercise.

The organised government pillaging has been going on since Independence and Mugabe, despite sonorous announcements at public gatherings about his desire to curb corruption, has done nothing to stop the vice and only two weeks ago he showed us the extent to which he doesn’t care about fighting corruption when he appointed a person with questionable credentials and a shady past to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Robert Smart Goodson Nguni (pictured), whom Mugabe appointed on the anti-graft body, is reportedly a fugitive from the law in Eastern Cape, South Africa.

He was convicted of “offences of fraud and corruption” by the courts in Port Elizabeth after he defrauded the South African Post Office in the Eastern Cape which had employed him as regional manager, according to records. After conviction, he reportedly ran away from South Africa back into Zimbabwe in 1999 and since then has been hiding in the country and in Zanu PF despite existence of extradition agreements between Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is also inexplicable why Interpol has not helped the South African authorities in this case.

It is now in legal records that on March 1 2008, the National Prosecution Authority of South Africa obtained an order in the High Court of South Africa (South Eastern Cape Local Division) authorising the curator bonis (legal representative appointed by the courts to manage finances, property or estate of another person unable to do so due to mental or physical incapacity) to dispose of Nguni’s property and disburse an amount of R62 806,60 to the state (Case number 2529/99) after the courts had established that Nguni had benefitted from his participation “in the offences of fraud and corruption” which were perpetrated against his employer .

The selection of Nguni to be a commissioner, against the background of his conviction for the offences of fraud and corruption by the South African courts, especially now that the anti-graft body is directly under the President’s Office, shows the lack of seriousness by Mugabe in fighting corruption.

If no due diligence was done in the selection of the commissioners, it certainly means no due diligence is likely on the investigation of corruption in the country.
The Anti-Corruption Commission Act (Chapter 9:22) is clear on the qualifications of commissioners and provides, among other reasons, that a person is disqualified from being appointed a commissioner if he/she “has been convicted:
(i) in Zimbabwe, in respect of an offence involving dishonesty; or
(ii) outside Zimbabwe, in respect of conduct which, if committed in Zimbabwe, would have constituted an offence involving dishonesty.”

It is common knowledge now that Nguni was convicted of the “offences of fraud and corruption” in South Africa which crimes are legally punishable in Zimbabwe and how this escaped the interviewers’ panel chosen by parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee which did the interviews, or the president, who made the appointments, boggles the mind.

To make matters worse, Mugabe appointed an individual who has a history of fighting those who have previously stood up against corruption including the anti-graft body itself. It is legally recorded that on May 14 2012, Nguni approached the High Court seeking to obtain an order declaring that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is not statutorily empowered to arrest persons accused of corruption. This he did to try and prevent the imminent arrest of Zanu PF MPs who were targeted by the anti-graft body for abusing the Constituency Development Fund issued by Treasury to MPs for developmental projects in their constituencies.

Nguni then argued that the authority to arrest criminal suspects is vested solely in the police and that Zacc can only make recommendations to the police should they uncover evidence of corruption against a suspect.

This was despite the fact that Section 13 of the Zacc Act clearly defines the powers of the commission and that “the commission shall exercise its powers concurrently with those of the police”.

This section is very clear and simply interpreted, means that the commission shall exercise its powers alongside or parallel to those powers being exercised by the police and therefore can arrest suspects without warrants as provided for under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07).

It is clear that Nguni’s frivolous court application was meant to defeat the course of justice and protect the interests of corrupt public officials through a deliberate move aimed at abusing the judiciary process to defang the Zacc and render it impotent in the fight against corruption.

To then imagine that such a character, three years later, is appointed to the same commission with a mandate to fight corruption, is outright madness and a clear indication that both parliament and the Office of the President are not serious in their so-called attempts to fight corruption.

We have been told ad nauseam, that the Zanu PF government has signed mega-deals with China, especially now after the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the country, but we also know of several projects that have been lined up by government, but have been hamstrung by massive corruption, and hope had been high that if an anti-corruption commission is established, the rot might be reduced, but with dubious characters appointed to such a commission, corruption can only become worse.

Mawarire is a former journalist.

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