Zanu PF: Corruption and patronage

mbada-1.jpg

President Robert Mugabe revealed in March that diamonds worth billions of US dollars had been looted from the country.

THIS is the third instalment of a report by Piers Pigou titled Zimbabwe’s Reforms: An Exercise In Credibility — Or Pretence, which was published by the South African-based Institute for Security Studies in its current issue.

The projected land compensation costs will run into billions of US dollars and a compensation framework has yet to be worked out.

There are scant available options to fund this; government acknowledges this and points out it will take some time to finalise settlements. Various funding suggestions have been mooted, including a special land compensation Treasury Bill (augmenting domestic debt), a land levy/tax on black beneficiaries of land reform and support from development partners.

Not surprisingly, many in the farming sector view these developments with profound cynicism, given that these activities are necessary for scaffolding progress in the broader re-engagement strategy.

While government claims over 300 000 people benefitted from land reform, there has been little transparency around the process, who benefitted and how this was determined. This detail is likely to expose the extent patronage politics played, and continues to play, in the process. The government has instituted several land audits since implementing the fast-track land reform, but none have been made public. A pilot land audit funded by the United Nations Development Programme in 2015 confirmed allegations that top government and Zanu PF officials owned multiple farms.

Government is now keen to focus on issues of (under)utilisation rather than multiple-ownership, and claims it is focused on downsizing and repossessing unproductive farms. This is likely to reflect mutating factional influences and it is difficult to see how they will convince international and domestic constituencies of their bona fide intentions to strengthen land reform without making details public of who benefitted, something many senior officials will want to avert.

But how fixed is government support for reforms in this most sensitive issue? In a further effort to demonstrate commitment to the rule of law in early May 2016, the government issued eviction notices to 18 000 families who had occupied farms in the Midlands province without approval. In a context of widespread food insecurity and the increased vulnerabilities of rural populations, processes to determine who is on the land, legally or otherwise, has significant political import. A transparent and accountable process is therefore required.

A fortnight after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s policy circular, President Robert Mugabe, while addressing a gathering of war veterans in Harare, suggested they should be able to seize land from the few remaining white farmers. Elsewhere, Zanu PF heavyweights continue to threaten eviction. Unresolved disputes around ongoing farm acquisitions and land invasions, the ownership and management of conservancies, as well as non-compliance with court orders, reflect an array of ongoing law and order challenges and highlight the importance of looking beyond a potential shift in national policy.

The theft of Marange diamonds

Mining, along with agriculture, is touted as a key engine for economic growth and recovery. Current opacities in the sector have enabled fraudulent and corrupt practices; limited detail regarding government revenue and company payments is available. Greater transparency in all aspects of the value chain – contracts, licencing, production, and community share ownership – will be an essential part of promoting good governance and accountability.

In February this year, Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa announced government would nationalise mining operations in the controversial Marange/Chiadzwa diamond fields and ordered the eight companies active there, including those involving the military, to cease operations immediately. Chidhakwa suggested the mining companies had been involved in looting and underhand dealings and that a new parastatal, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Corporation (ZCDC), would now take over.

In March, Mugabe stunned Zimbabweans, claiming the mining companies operating in Marange had produced over US$15 billion worth of diamonds since 2009, but had accounted for less than US$2 billion. Mugabe claimed his government had been swindled and that “our people who we expected to be our eyes and ears have not been able to see or hear what was going on”. There is a strong perception that these moves are part of the factional dynamics around succession and are designed to contain rent-seeking operations controlled by security elements aligned to Mnangagwa.

But government cannot claim it was unaware of goings-on at Marange; not only did it have a major stake in six of the Marange operations, a raft of local and international NGO reports, evidence from the Kimberley Process, and most significantly, the 2013 report of the Mines and Energy Parliamentary Portfolio Committee — the culmination of a four-year investigation — which provided detail on shortcomings, wrongdoings and related responsibilities.

But no mention has been made of this by either Mugabe or Chidhakwa, raising important questions about the government’s apparent newfound commitment to transparency and accountability.

The theft of diamond money has been an open secret for many years; questions as to who in government, the security sector and Zanu PF was involved and to what extent they benefitted, remain unanswered. How government will now follow through on its promised investigations will be indicative of its capacities and commitments to remedy this major challenge in governance.

A history of sweeping such violations under the carpet does not engender confidence. Re-admission into world diamond markets following the lifting of its suspension from the Kimberley Process was meant to improve transparency; it did not. It is unlikely Mugabe and his government will now promote a process that exposes the depth of Zanu PF complicity in the malfeasance. A robust no-holds-barred investigation is “not Mugabe’s management style”. But how government remedies unanswered questions around the missing revenue, as well as the serious concerns now being raised about efforts to consolidate all operations under the new ZCDC, is a key indicator of government’s commitment to reform.

Understandable concerns remain that the nationalisation process is intended to ‘close the books on years of systematic looting’ and government complicity, as well as enabling the diamond companies to renege on their obligations to both government and local communities in Marange.

Tackling corruption

While corruption has been the leitmotif of Zimbabwe’s sorry diamond tale, it is but one aspect of the endemic corruption challenge facing the country. In recent months, the government has repeatedly acknowledged this is a central concern. But what is it doing about it?

Institutional remedies have been uneven. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has been an unmitigated disaster, itself accused of corruption, unable to meet its constitutional obligations.

On a more positive note, Auditor-General Mildred Chisi has undertaken an impressive set of investigations that have exposed the rot in multiple government ministries and state-owned enterprises. Two units have been established to follow up on Chisi’s findings and recommendations; arrests and prosecutions are expected.

The National Prosecuting Authority claims resources have been allocated to fight corruption, but that the country needs to set up specialist courts and re-invigorate Zacc with powers to investigate and arrest.

A recent editorial in the state media admitted interventions to date have been “more talk and less action”.

Reflecting on the introduction of a new law to address public sector corporate governance that will see corruption and other maladministration in the public sector criminalised, there are expectations in some quarters that a more systematic approach will be adopted. The new law provides for stricter oversight from line ministries and the establishment of a governance unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet. But this is unlikely to result in any serious movement on corruption, which reflects a culture of self-enrichment, rent-seeking and patronage politics.

Selective engagement can be expected, fuelled by factional interests and respective influences. A much closer assessment of allegations and subsequent actions by statutory bodies is required.

Constitutional alignment

The adoption of the new constitution has necessitated the alignment of hundreds of laws and the operationalising of new democracy-supporting institutions. Progress has been mixed; government claims that this is running smoothly and denies it has engaged selectively, but critics argue engagement has been selective and that the alignment process has been used to claw back executive powers in several areas where the new constitution had intended them reduced.

Promises that expedited alignment would “deal with corruption cases” has yet to bear fruit. Elsewhere, government has chosen to avoid engagement – such as the constitutional alignment of electoral laws, and especially those relating to control of voter registration, amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), or the introduction of new laws on provincial devolution and local government.

Government appears intent on going through the motions of alignment, but much of the draft legislation it brings out under the guise of alignment, according to some legal experts, is unconstitutional.

Government has also opposed several civil society challenges in the Constitutional Court, which has responded with a series of progressive judgments. Overall progress in the establishment of new democracy-supporting institutions has been inadequate and major questions about their independence from the executive have been raised but not addressed.
Provisions in draft legislation for the Gender and National Peace and Reconciliation Commissions were manifestly unconstitutional.

Dominance and division

Zanu PF faces the paradox of unrivalled power at the same time as struggling to manage unprecedented debilitating factionalism over the last 20 months. The backdrop remains the unanswered question of who will succeed Mugabe. Zanu PF has endorsed him as their candidate for the 2018 elections, when he will be 94 years old, and have used this to shut down any formal debate on succession within the party. Mugabe himself has repeatedly said there is no vacancy and interested parties should desist. But the issue of succession remains central to the factional dynamics that have threatened to rip the party apart.

A virulent campaign against then vice-president Joice Mujuru in the last quarter of 2014, spearheaded by the president’s wife and newly appointed head of Zanu PF’s Women’s League, Grace Mugabe, resulted in Mujuru’s expulsion at the party’s December 2014 congress and the removal of a phalanx of national and provincial leaders aligned to her. Accusations of plotting against Mugabe and fanning factionalism belied a longer-term breakdown in relations and Mujuru folded without a fight. Grace Mugabe’s campaign was publically supported by a coterie of senior Zanu PF leaders and endorsed by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mujuru’s primary rival, whose supporters in military intelligence helped provide the “evidence” that brought her down. The congress adopted a raft of changes to the Zanu PF constitution, significantly strengthening Mugabe’s hand as first secretary, but also generating confusion about how Zanu PF would appoint his successor in the event he dies or becomes incapacitated in office.

Any hopes that Mujuru’s removal would contain factional rivalries were misplaced. Mnangagwa’s subsequent elevation to vice-president (along with the relatively unknown Phelekezela Mphoko) set the scene for further factional struggles predicated on unresolved issues of succession to Mugabe; all sides claimed loyalty to Mugabe, accusing rivals of treachery and seeking to undermine the First Family.

In this process, Grace Mugabe was given an elevated status by those opposed to Mnangagwa’s purported presidential ambition, generating speculation regarding her own presidential ambitions. This grouping, collectively referred to as Generation 40 (G40), has worked hard to undermine Mnangagwa’s support base within the party.

Factional battles have simmered and erupted in provincial party structures across the country and remain largely unresolved. Key battlefront provinces include Masvingo, Manicaland and Mnangagwa’s home province, the Midlands.
Mnangagwa has kept his counsel while a raft of his key lieutenants has been subject to “votes of no confidence” and the party’s disciplinary processes. The Zanu PF national disciplinary committee (NDC), chaired by Mphoko (a close ally of Grace), is dominated by G40 members and has been accused by party elements (especially from within the ranks of the war veterans supporting Mnangagwa) of pursuing a partisan agenda.

A number of key Mnangagwa allies have been sanctioned, accused of factionalism and suspended through votes of no confidence. The overall trends show the Mnangagwa camp losing ground in both the party and the state to G40 and Mugabe acolyte interests. G40 elements are agitating for a special national convention they see as an opportunity to impeach Mnangagwa.

  • To be continued next week.

Pigou has worked for several organisations focused on human rights, transitional justice and political violence, including the South African and East Timorese truth commissions, since 1992. Between June 2009 and October 2010, he was a senior associate responsible for Southern Africa, and Zimbabwe in particular, at the International Centre for Transitional Justice. In April 2011, he joined the International Crisis Group (ICG) as project director for Southern Africa. Since November 2015, he has been a part-time consultant for ICG.

Top