Corruption bane of Zim’s development

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ZIMBABWE’S economy has had several challenges since the southern African nation gained Independence in 1980. One of them is corruption, which has become cancerous.

— Econometer Global Capital.

The nascent democracy was first rocked by the Willowgate Scandal. The scandal involved government officials who were given preference in buying vehicles at the state-owned Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries and reselling them at inflated prices.

After Independence, Willowvale was the country’s legal importer of cars and as many enjoyed the honeymoon years of the new democracy, the list of would-be car owners grew.

Fortunately for senior government officials such as ministers, the law allowed them to jump ahead of the queue ostensibly on the understanding that they would use the vehicles for their official duties.

The reselling of these cars prejudiced Treasury of revenue and this prompted former president Robert Mugabe to set up the Sandura Commission.

Despite the findings of the commission, Mugabe pardoned those who were implicated. These included current Zimbabwe’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Frederick Shava, who was convicted, but never served any prison term.

After the Willowgate scandal, Zimbabwe was again rocked by a series of scandals involving state-owned enterprise and parastatals.

These included the Grain Marketing Board, NocZim, Willowvale Flats and Zesa scandals.

One common feature in these scandals is that most of the key suspects went scot-free and in some cases they would hibernate for some time before being re-appointed after the passage of time.

The Zupco scandal was one of the few cases in which the government attempted to use the long arm of the law to deal with corruption. But critics say only guinea pigs instead of heavyweights were targeted.

This again illustrated government’s reluctance in dealing with corruption. Interestingly, just before his fall Mugabe shielded ministers accused of corruption.

Following Mugabe’s exit, his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to fight corruption and one of the things he did was to set up the Special Anti-Corruption Unit which reported directly to his office.

There is divided legal opinion on the constitutionality of this decision with critics arguing that Mnangagwa would not target his allies.

The President then appointed a new Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) this year after the previous body was criticised for being corrupt and lacking the “teeth to bite”.

The appointment of High Court judge Loice Matanda Moyo to the helm of Zacc met with mixed reactions. Some questioned why government had appointed Moyo, wife of Foreign Affairs minister Sibusisio Moyo, to head the commission, but many came to her defence, describing her as a jurist of integrity.

Focus shifted to the newly appointed anti-corruption commission when Environment and Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira was arrested on corruption charges. Mupfumira is facing corruption charges dating back to her tenure as Labour minister.

She is accused of prejudicing the National Social Security Authority of taxpayers’ funds running into millions of dollars.

Corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic in both the public and private sectors. The country is lowly ranked on the Transparency International Corruption Index.

We are of the view that the prosecution of those accused of corruption should not be the a means to the end, but government should promote a new culture of transparency and accountability. The letter and spirit of corporate governance should be respected.

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