COLUMN: MARY REVESAI
Zimbabwe has leeches, not scorpions
By Mary Revesai
A TOOTHLESS bulldog such as Zimbabwe’s Anti-Corruption Commission can never be given more bite by a mere change of name or cosmetic transformation as has been suggested.
Reports that the catatonic commission is to be reconstituted along the same lines as South Africa’s crack anti-corruption unit, the Scorpions, would cause excitement among long suffering Zimbabweans if the government’s anti-graft crusade had a credible track record and the move was a natural progression to build on earlier successes.
In the eyes of most ordinary Zimbabweans however, the Anti-Corruption Commission has turned out over the last three years, to be an expensive smokescreen set up solely to divert attention from the greed and avarice of the powerful and influential within the ruling party.
Despite overwhelming evidence being available about shameless plunder and pillaging of national assets by public figures, none of these big shots have been touched. The main role of the commission has in fact, been to protect powerful and well connected wrongdoers while raising a storm about petty offenders who should ordinarily and routinely be dealt with by the police.
The Anti-Corruption Commission’s lack of success since it was set up has not been due to logistical and procedural problems as the responsible Minister, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana would have the nation believe when he told a daily newspaper: “The current process where the commission simply investigates and hands over a report to the police to produce a docket that will in turn be sent to the A-G’s office is ineffectual. At times, the effectiveness of the matter is lost along the way.”
To put it bluntly, Mangwana is lying through his teeth. He cannot expect long-suffering Zimbabweans to believe that this is what happened with respect to all the culprits who have continued to thumb their noses at the nation after looting the War Victims Compensation Fund and abusing the VIP Housing scheme? More recently there has been deafening silence from the Anti-Corruption Commission about multiple farm owners, who Robert Mugabe himself has said should be brought to book. The identity of these land sharks has never been made public. Mangwana has not said at what stage the “effectiveness” of their cases was lost so completely that not a single farm grabber has been prosecuted.
If Mangwana were to be honest, which is a scarce quality in Mugabe’s government, he would admit that his Anti-Corruption Ministry cannot move against any big shots because the powers that be will simply not allow it. They are conscious of the fact that their own hands are not clean and they cannot be certain of what skeletons would tumble out of their cupboards once a precedent was set.
This means that when he makes noises about transforming the moribund Anti-Corruption Commission, Mangwana is simply being his master’s voice in singing the ruling party’s song of deception. Having gone ‘bonkers’ as Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, subterfuge is now Robert Mugabe’s only viable survival strategy. Saying the exact opposite of what one is doing is a well known Nazi tactic that the beleaguered Mugabe routinely resorts to, to buy time . He also likes to ape decisions and policies that he imagines puts him on the same moral high ground as the leaders of countries that may have employed similar measures in a principled and committed manner.
An example that comes to mind are his attempts to introduce
anti-terrorism laws in Zimbabwe as if this country has ever faced the
same security threat as the United States following the September 11
attacks in 2001. He wants to project himself as a crusader against terrorism
when he is subjecting his own people to similarly unfathomable barbarism.
Mugabe deludes himself that Zimbabwe ,which he has ruined, would be
thought to be in the same league as South Africa if his government dupes
everyone into thinking it is prepared to fight graft and impropriety
as vigorously as Thabo Mbeki’s government has set out to do.
The same principled and professional execution of duty that resulted in Jacob Zuma’s prosecution can never be expected of any government watchdog in Zimbabwe as long as a political dispensation that embraces a culture of impunity is Mugabe’s insurance against relinquishing power. As long as Mugabe needs to surround himself with sycophants who owe their political and economic advantage to his patronage, corrupt and inept individuals will continue to regard themselves as being beyond reproach. It is a mutually ruinous relationship which opens the aging dictator to blackmail and manipulation which he tolerates because he needs to remain in power. Clearly, setting up an entity with a high-sounding name such as “crack anti-graft unit” is a waste of money and resources because the real motive for such moves is to dupe the restive masses and buy time.
When the government first launched its anti-graft campaign, the public was bombarded with rhetoric about how no stone would be left unturned to nab wrongdoers. It is only as events have unfolded that the long-suffering and overburdened taxpayers have realized they have been made to finance a giant cover-up operation for the benefit of the ruling elite. The so-called anti-graft crusade has in fact fanned more corruption in that hordes of people have been hired as commissioners and are drawing salaries from public coffers for doing nothing. More deplorably, the existence of the ineffectual commission is a deceitful way of giving the corrupt tacit approval to continue their looting with impunity.
Consider this: the commission makes a well publicised visit to investigate irregularities at a hot-bed of corruption and ineptitude such as Harare’s Town House. The visit is, of course a charade from the outset as the commission’s hands are tied . When nothing happens afterwards, the public is supposed to believe that everything is hunky-dory under Zanu PF puppet, Sekesai Makwavarara, who chairs the commission imposed by the ruling party to run the affairs of Harare. It is scandalous.
The Mugabe regime has resorted to parading nonentities
nabbed for minor infractions of the law in an attempt to divert attention
from big time graft and avarice that has pauperized the populace. The
encouraging thing is that the ploy has failed to fool anyone so far.
Some of the first scandals to be exposed soon after the installation of a black government in South Africa involved Mandela’s then wife, Winnie. These not only centered around details about the Mandela Football Club which was exposed as a set-up through which the woman who came to be known as the ‘Mother of the Nation’ ordered killings or attacks against those who had lost favour with her. Media coverage included revelations about problems in the Mandela marriage. After details of Winnie’s love affair with a much younger man were splashed in newspapers, the marriage inevitably collapsed but at no point was there an attempt by Mandela to cover up anything. Robert Mugabe will never operate that way.
Winnie’s brushes with the law and subsequent prosecution all played out in the public domain. Since then, South Africa has seemed like the most corrupt country in Africa. Hardly a month passes without a press expose about some form of wrongdoing involving government ministers , officials, or parliamentarians. But what this means in reality is that the government has not allowed any scandals or corruption to be swept under the carpet but has dealt with them as they became known. It is a far cry from the complicity and dereliction of duty displayed by Mugabe’s government since independence. It has left corruption to fester for so long that the scourge can no longer be eradicated within this regime in Mugabe’s lifetime despite all the feigned moral indignation.Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her column will appear here every Tuesday
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