RECENT utterances from various senior government officials, including President Robert Mugabe, on the growing cancer of corruption, sounds like a broken record given their appalling failure to act on the vice.
Editor’s Memo,Faith Zaba
Mugabe has over the years denounced corruption, saying it will not be tolerated, but he has never bothered to act on corrupt people in his government. Corruption has been allowed to flourish unchecked among Mugabe’s close associates.
Over the years Mugabe has been saying top Zanu PF officials want to acquire wealth through “self-aggrandisement”.
However, for all his grandstanding on corruption, he has never named or shamed the corrupt officials.
Just in the last few weeks, we have had senior government and Zanu PF officials lambasting corruption, from Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the First Lady Grace Mugabe and the military. Even the captive state media is also calling for action.
Mnangagwa has since Zanu PF’s electoral victory in 2013 been denouncing corruption. Last month, he said government will “ruthlessly” deal with individuals implicated in corrupt deals regardless of their status.
In an interview with the state media, he said: “This country needs to fight corruption and this cancer should not be the responsibility of one institution. I think we need to psyche up the entire nation to fight corruption wherever it rears its head.”
Mnangagwa pointed out that media reports on corruption were disturbing and culprits should face justice.
“It will be very hard, but it’s necessary and good for the country,” Mnangagwa said.
A fortnight ago, he told parliament that no one was above the law and that it was only the president who was immune to prosecution and everyone else is fair game.
Grace weighed in last week at the commissioning of the Zibagwe Bridge along Chivhu-Nyazura highway when she said: “Because, most of the people who get into positions of authority, are using that to enrich themselves. You are not in that position of authority to enrich yourself. You are in that position to serve the people.”
Mugabe said on Saturday at the burial of national hero Cephas Msipa that his associates should emulate the former cabinet minister and Midlands governor, whom he said abhorred corruption.
Just this week, Zimbabwe National Army Chief of Staff Administration Douglas Nyikayaramba said the country’s economy was not growing and was bleeding because of corruption by senior government officials.
“Corruption is a cancer, which is taking the nation backwards, thereby causing insecurity to the nation. It is now a security threat because it is causing people to create mafias or alliances where if one is accused of being corrupt, he quickly asks for the help of other big names to protect him or her,” Nyikayaramba said.
All these remarks are nothing more than sound bites until substantive action is taken to stem the tide of graft, especially among the political elite.
Mugabe’s tirades are hypocritical and hollow because it is his government that has fuelled corruption through his entrenched political patronage system.
As early as 1988 the then Zanu PF secretary-general, Edgar Tekere, warned Mugabe that corruption in high places was eroding the country’s economic fabric. The president ignored the warning and fired Tekere the following year from both party and government, saying he had failed to substantiate allegations of massive corruption by top ministers.
More than 28 years later, the nonagenarian leader still falls desperately short in fighting corruption despite several reports by the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri and other private audit firms that have exposed graft through criminal abuse of state resources by top government officials.
Instead of focusing on fighting this scourge, which has cost the country billions in public funds, the issue has turned factional, with the two main factions led by Mnangagwa and another referred to as the Generation 40, throwing accusations and counter accusations.
It is now up to Mugabe to rise above factional lines and act. It is time for him to salvage what is left of his tattered legacy and walk the talk.