The early 80s saw the relatively new and young Zanu PF government grapple with the phenomenon of corruption, both in the public and private sector, with some measure of success.
The star private sector case of one Sam Zunhidza, who traded under the style Paweni, and the public sector cases involving Maurice Nyagumbo, Enos Nkala, Dzingai Mutumbuka, Callistus Ndlovu and Frederick Shava, among others, dubbed the Willowgate Scandal, were the pioneering cases.
Maurice Nyagumbo, an astute gentleman about the Leadership Code to the extent of disposing of a farm he had bought in Rusape, on the grounds of it being in excess of the Leadership Code-prescribed 50 hectares limit, was to later take his own life due to manic depression.
The items of the investigations then, were measly motor vehicles, sourced from Willowvale Motor Industries and sold above the then controlled prices.
It’s important to note that these vehicles did, in fact, belong to the same demised ministers, who had, as a matter of fact, paid Willowvale Motor Industry for them. The offence was in re-selling them above the controlled prices.
Whether the government of the day was truly clean and pure may be a subject for another chapter for, there was a curious and suspicious underplay and secrecy about the results of Sandura 2, Chihambakwa Commission and others, until the complete disappearance of the Commission of Inquiry system altogether, against a backdrop of an emergence of a deluge of inexplicably nouveau riche MPs and ministers, like never before.
Against this mushrooming background of obscene wealth and opulence owned and displayed by these MPs and ministers, is it any wonder the Commission of Inquiry system was abandoned?
It is clear and unquestionable that many, if not all of them, have used their offices to acquire unimaginable wealth, which their modest official incomes could not possibly justify.
They are human, after all, ever in the front row to mop up most opportunities, like vacuum cleaners, be it in farms, diamonds, mining, hunting concessions, fuel supply, loans and handouts from RBZ, farming fuel, seed, fertilizers, tractors . . . you name it, together with their patronage brigade!
Ministerial and public offices have become the panacea to an Eldorado and a fast highway to unimaginable wealth in Zimbabwe.
The Leadership Code lies somewhere, cobwebbed and dusty like the headstone of a lone pauper’s grave. It was never meant to be, it was a mere smokescreen and opium to lull the people to sleep on some pretences of feigned honour and dedication to serve.
Human frailty has a gravitational pull few can resist. Why people will purport to put for themselves benchmarks they have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever meeting, we shall never know.
The late Eddison Zvobgo once said that it was disingenuous to pretend and expect that there can be a missionary genus of individuals who will dedicate themselves to serving without themselves also drawing water from the well.
He said that he was very circumspect about the Leadership Code and had long acquired an interest in hotels and was not ashamed to say so openly.
He said there wasn’t a single socialist or communist that he knew of in Zanu PF, but mere pretenders.
But then again, even some of the most capitalist of capitalist states have embraced declaration of assets as a way of curtailing corruption . . . why will our guys not? Perhaps it’s to do with coming from very poor backgrounds.
The writing was on the wall when the findings of the Sandura 2 Commission were withheld and never published and when Thomas Mapfumo’s pointed song, Corruption, was strategically denied airplay.
Smitten in the spirit, Baptist-style, by a sermon from Willas Madzimure, chairman of African Parliamentarians Against Corruption, Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone was born again and decided to volunteer to declare her assets to the Speaker of Parliament!
While that is a good start, merely declaring and confining such declared information to the Speaker of Parliament, a colleague, who is expected to also declare his assets, cannot be held to be a satisfactory and sufficient act for deliverance from evil.
The media, as the public watchdog, wants to know what property such public officers hold, so that if members of the public are aware of any other undeclared property, they can blow the whistle. What’s the purpose of lighting a candle then hiding it under a bushel?
Declaration of assets must become a mandatory occupational hazard of holding public office if corruption is going to be curtailed.
It may also be more meaningful if MPs and ministers were to declare their interests on entry into office, periodically during, and on leaving office so that the public is informed of just how much moss they are gathering while in office and in what circumstances.
It is public knowledge that the Makones were already well heeled financially on entry into politics, but that should not absolve one from the obligation to declare their interests.
As long as declaration of assets is voluntary there is likely to be very few who will come up to declare. They are not foolish!
How many states opted to volunteer for the Sadc peer review system despite signing the protocol?
There is also an obvious tendency to camouflage and hide assets in the name of nominees, relatives and so forth, to defeat the purpose.
The idea behind declaring assets is to watchdog our public office bearers, engender and build public confidence and trust in them, while at the same time ensuring that they are not using their offices to corruptly enrich themselves.
While it is better late than never, we may be attempting to close the stable long after the horses have bolted, where the majority of our MPs, senators and ministers are concerned.
Why it has taken 30 years and counting for these guys to concretise on the Leadership Code and declaration of assets is a most eloquent paradox.
Most of these guys are generally now very rich.