FACED with a rapidly advancing scourge of corruption, President Robert Mugabe has assumed full control of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which had apparently became a victim of feral factional fights within his ruling ZANU-PF party.
Before the latest move, effected through Statutory Instrument (SI) 68 of 2016, the anti-graft body fell under the Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by Ignatius Chombo.
Government insiders said ZACC had become ineffective in the discharge of its duties because of the power-plays rattling the ruling party, with ZANU-PF factions trying to influence its officers and commissioners to bring down their perceived opponents.
The Home Affairs Ministry was also said to have been contributing to ZACC’s inefficiency because of its unwillingness to let the commission probe other line ministries.
Through the enactment of SI 68 of 2016, ZACC will now report directly to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
“It is hereby notified that His Excellency, the President, in terms of section 104(1) of the Constitution as read with sections 37(2) of the Interpretation Act (Chapter 1:01) has assigned to the Office of the President and Cabinet the administration of the Acts (the Anti-Corruption Commission Act and Prevention of Corruption Act) in the schedule and the functions conferred or imposed on the OPC save to the extent that those functions have not been assigned to some other minister,” reads the SI published in the Government Gazette last Friday.
Government and presidential spokesman, George Charamba, confirmed the change on Monday, but said it had nothing to do with ruling party factionalism.
“The change has been on the cards for some time. Even Vice President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa said it about three weeks ago. Reasons are that government felt ministries were failing to investigate each other and therefore the President had to take control of the fight against corruption,” he said.
Last month, Mnangagwa told a symposium on the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe organised by the OPC that President Mugabe would take over the supervision of the commission following concerns about ministries avoiding investigating each other.
Earlier on, the commission had torched a storm when it declared its intentions to question some senior government officials and heads of parastatals, including six permanent secretaries, over corruption allegations.
These are Grace Mutandiro (Ministry of Lands and Resettlement); George Mlilo (Local Government); Willard Manungo (Finance and Economic Development); Evelyn Ndlovu (Small and Medium Enterprises Development); Munesu Munodawafa (Transport and Infrastructure Development) and Sam Kundishora (Information and Communication Technology).
They were accused of fraud and flouting tender procedures.
The commission also came under heavy criticism over the manner in which it was handling the investigations after it reportedly rushed to announce its intentions to the press without sufficient evidence, raising fears that feuding ruling party camps were tussling to use it to settle personal scores.
Government sources said President Mugabe was not happy with the sluggish rate at which corruption was being tackled.
Sources also said the commission was at the centre of the ZANU-PF succession war where two distinct camps are battling to control the heart and soul of the ruling party in the hope of placing themselves at a vantage position to field a candidate to replace President Mugabe whenever he decides to leave politics.
The two major brawlers in the faction battle are Team Lacoste, which is rooting for Mnangagwa and Generation 40 or G40, believed to be opposed to the Vice President.
Fears abound that with the two camps engaged in a fierce tug of war, even capitalising on all platforms at their disposal, the factions were angling to take charge of the commission and turn it into a weapon against each other.
Although it was directly under Chombo’s supervision – whose factional allegiance remains a mystery – sources said factionalists were creeping in by influencing the investigators.
Questions were also raised about the commission last week after investigators arrested Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, for alleged criminal abuse of office over the contentious hiring of former NMB Holdings chief executive, James Mushore.
Sources further said the SI which gave notice of the transfer of the commission from Chombo’s administration to the President’s Office, was hurriedly stitched together following the arrest of Manyenyeni.
This was after complaints that Local Government Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere – an alleged key G40 member, but who denies it – had instigated Manyenyeni’s arrest.
The arrest came just minutes after Manyenyeni had scored a major victory – his second – against Kasukuwere when High Court Judge, Justice Lavender Makoni interdicted him from suspending the mayor and re-instated him.
Kasukuwere and Manyenyeni have been fighting relentless battles ever since the Harare City Council hired Mushore to replace sacked town clerk, Tendai Mahachi.
Last Friday, National Assembly members quizzed Kasukuwere over his alleged involvement in the arrest of the mayor, but the ZANU-PF national political commissar denied any involvement in the issue, saying it was a mere coincidence.
Corruption is now being described as Zimbabwe’s number one enemy.
Despite being a country deeply rooted in Christian values, Zimbabwe is now considered among the most corrupt countries on the Corruption Perception Index produced by Transparency International.
With the exception of the Sandura Commission, set up to probe the infamous Willowgate scandal of 1989 in which senior officials were accused of using a government facility to purchase vehicles from Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries and reselling them for profit, Zimbabweans learnt to politely make more room as the cancer continued to spread unimpeded.
Even with the Sandura Commission, many of those implicated later found their way back onto the gravy train once things quietened down and that was the end of what had been Zimbabwe’s serious attempt at curbing and exposing corruption.
Some of the politicians and businesspeople that featured in Willowgate and other major scandals such as the VIP Housing Scheme in 1995 and the War Victims Compensation Fund in 1997 were recycled and brought back into the fold holding even higher and more influential posts than before.
As corruption grew unchecked the culprits became more daring.
Corruption kept on gaining more ground. In addition to the many questionable deals and tenders awarded by government, parastatal and municipal officials, political cronies were given unbelievable salaries and allowances in local authorities and parastatals. The political bigwigs enjoyed the trappings of power in high government offices, with huge perks and jaw-dropping allowances.
It came to a point where even a small local authority’s town clerk earned almost US$21 000 every month in an environment where the ordinary worker takes home on average between US$250 and US$500 each month.
The conscience disappeared and there was no need to hide the greed.
Corruption had now become legitimised in the form of salaries and allowances.
Now those who help oil the wheels of power, but do not have the means and access to plunder State resources, have become frustrated.
They want a bigger share of the pie.