Politicisation of anti-corruption

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Dumisani Muleya

ONE of the issues central to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s message after his rise to power through a military coup five days from today a year ago and in his bid to sanitise and legitimise his smash-and-grab ascendency through a disputed presidential election in July was fighting corruption.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

Since he came in, Mnangagwa, who has a controversial anti-corruption taskforce in his office on top of the constitutional anti-corruption commission, has been waxing lyrical about corruption, including yesterday. His administration has moved fast to arrest a number of high-profile officials, including former ministers, bureaucrats and executives mainly at state enterprises.

Some of the senior public officials who have so far been arrested on allegations of corruption and “criminal abuse of office” include Ignatius Chombo, Walter Mzembi, Samuel Undenge, Walter Chidhakwa, Saviour Kasukuwere and Supa Mandiwanzira — all former ministers. Mandiwanzira was arrested this week, but freed on bail.

Former Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa was also this week issued with an arrest warrant after he failed to turn up for his corruption trial.

His former boss, Jonathan Moyo, was also implicated in the matter, which heightened the then president Robert Mugabe’s succession battle before he was toppled in the coup, as it became a highly political and volatile issue.

There is no debate or doubt that people, public officials in particular, must be held to account for corrupt activities. Indeed, corruption must be fought everywhere, that is in the public and private sectors, to be sure across society.

So in principle, what Mnangagwa is doing — on the face of it — is right. He has put the issue top of his agenda and is persistently executing the task. Fighting corruption is always a good thing.
What is wrong and bad, though, is selectively tackling corruption, particularly when the issue is politicised. That can undermine the whole anti-corruption campaign.

In fact, it’s counterproductive and an abuse of office in itself. Politicising corruption and targeting real or imagined rivals is actually corrupt. I shall revert to this later.

Corruption is rampant in Zimbabwe. It is corroding the moral fabric of society; people’s morality and public institutions. The situation is so bad that those who are not corrupt are often seen as unenterprising and even stupid.

Corruption, inflicting a heavy opportunity cost toll on the economy, has now become a way of life for some. Corrupt elements are even treated as role models in society. That is how rotten to the core Zimbabwe has become.

Of course, there are millions of Zimbabweans who are not corrupt; hardworking people. Not everyone in a position of authority or who has money is corrupt. Some people are enterprising and work hard to make it.

But Zimbabwe’s problems, especially corruption, are a familiar story across Africa. Chinua Achebe’s book, The Trouble with Nigeria’s echoes reverberate true everywhere in the continent. The late eminent African novelist and critic, author of the famous novel, Things Fall Apart, linked leadership and policy failures to other problems like economic challenges, social injustice, mediocrity cult, tribalism and corruption.

Back to the main point: Mnangagwa must fight corruption without fear or favour. The issue must not be politicised. There should not be selective prosecution. Sadly so far, there has been a pattern of arresting mainly his political rivals, real or perceived.

Fighting corruption on a G40 versus Lacoste, or Mnangagwa versus Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga factional template is not serious and sustainable. You can’t fight corruption through a corrupt process.

Not that those arrested so far are innocent — that is for the courts to decide, well they are innocent until proven guilty — but there appears to be a political motive in targeting some people along political factional lines or to settle personal scores. That is wrong. It is petty and vindictive. People must be arrested for corruption without politicising or personalising issues.

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