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Bigwigs under probe for corruption

THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has warned that the net is closing in on all bigwigs implicated in corruption, vowing no one will be spared regardless of their social standing.

BY PATRICE MAKOVA

Zacc chairperson, Denford Chirindo said following remarks by President Robert Mugabe last week castigating corrupt public officials, investigations of all people linked to corruption were now in full throttle.

He said Zacc was investigating several cases of prominent people implicated in corruption, including the alleged US$6 million bribe scandal at a State-owned, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).

Mugabe last week alleged that former ZMDC chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa demanded and received a US$6 million bribe from William Ato Essien  of Ghana, who wanted to invest in the country’s diamond sector.

Chirindo refused to disclose the other bigwigs Zacc was investigating, arguing this could alert the culprits with the possibility that some could run away.

But the anti-graft boss said Mugabe’s calls were a direct order and clarion call to all law enforcement agencies to co-operate and swing into action with renewed vigour, in order to stop corrupt people in their tracks.

“We are geared to move forward,” Chirindo said. “What other order do you want? It cannot be negotiated. The President’s directive has to be executed to the letter, otherwise the whip will be cracked on our backs.”

A few months ago Zacc commissioners and investigators said they feared for their lives after attempting to investigate high-level corruption in government.

This came in the wake of a clampdown on Zacc after the anti-graft body’s efforts to investigate corruption allegations against the ZMDC, three Zanu PF cabinet ministers and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board was blocked.

But Chirindo said the public spat was now a thing of the past, adding Zacc commissioners and investigators had no reason to fear doing their jobs.

“The President said it loud and clear that corruption must go. What other protection do they want?

“All citizens must take heed. People must not be afraid as it is the duty of each and every individual to fight corruption.”

He said Mugabe’s messages also proved there was 100% political will in the fight against corruption.

Chirindo however appealed to parliamentarians to ensure that Zacc received adequate funding to enable the body to effectively executive its mandate.

“We hope they [MPs] will support us because even they are not sacred cows,” he said.

In the past, Zacc confirmed that it was investigating Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono, former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister, Ignatius Chombo, among others.

But analysts said the government’s commitment and sincerity to the fight against corruption would have to pass the test of time.

Political analyst, Thabani Nyoni said it was surprising that Mugabe was now calling for action, yet he recently claimed calls to audit the lifestyles of rich cabinet ministers and the arrest of corrupt public officials were difficult to implement.

“Mugabe’s response was that people should bring evidence,” he said. “But it is not the duty of whistle-blowers to provide such evidence. Zacc should be allowed to do its job. The last time they tried to do that, there were lots of threats and persecutions.”

Nyoni, who is also the Bulawayo Agenda executive director and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) spokesperson, said it was unlikely that the country would see the naming and shaming of bigwigs involved in corruption.

He sees only the small fish being targeted.

Nyoni said Zanu PF survived on a system of patronage, which itself thrived on corruption by rewarding loyalists.

“This anti-corruption drive is a window dressing. If it is to go full throttle, it will take the entire Zanu PF leadership,” said Nyoni.

Last year, Mugabe confirmed that some of his ministers were corrupt to the core, demanding bribes of up to US$10 million from potential foreign investors.

However, no action has been taken against the suspects.

‘lack of political will will hamper investigations’

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director, Abel Chikomo said the major constraint in the anti-graft crusade was lack of political will and obsession of pursuing the small fish.

He said as long as the “big guys” who were involved in serious corruption remained untouchable, the anti-corruption drive would not go far.

“The fish rots from the head. Corruption is so cancerous that it affects the whole cross section of society. If we treat the symptoms and not the disease itself, then we are not going anywhere,” said Chikomo.

On the case of Masimirembwa, he said the tenets of rule of law stipulated that an individual was presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.
Chikomo said another constraint in the anti-graft fight was corruption in the judiciary.

“Real big guys can buy their freedom. We need a complete overhaul of the system in order to deal with corruption,” he said.

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