Anti-graft commission haunted by past

The new Anti-Corruption Commission recently sworn in by President Robert Mugabe faces the monumental task of proving it has teeth to bite or risk relegation to the dust bins of history.

Analysts have expressed doubt the new graft-busting body will have enough space to manouvre. They noted history has proven past commissions have often merely been theoretical as they hardly delivered tangible results.

The new commission looks balanced on paper and the fact that there were contributions from all players in the inclusive government, could provide a glimmer of hope.

It is chaired by Denford Chirindo and is deputised by Pearl Mugadza. The other members include Shepherd Gwasira, Elita Tinotenda Sakupwanya, Lakayana Dube, Goodwill Shana, Zivanai Zed Rusike, Annah Colletah Chitsike and Emmanuel Chimwanda.

Analysts expressed fears this commission, just like its predecessor, may not effectively deal with the malignant cancer of graft in high places in light of the problems dogging the inclusive government.

They said corruption has since been institutionalised in the country and forms the bedrock of a patronage system upon which the former ruling Zanu PF has thrived over the past years.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer and constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said although it would not be fair to assess the new commission before it had been given time to work, what was needed in the country was a new political culture that will usher in new mindsets and values.

“Since this commission is still new, we have to wait and see. But I think what is needed is a new political culture. We first have to get a new government, with a different political framework and new thinking on the eradication of corruption,” he said.

Madhuku said in a different political set-up, it was possible that the commission would be able to deliver because such commissions did not operate in a vacuum.

He said: “Maybe with a different government, the commission would work. It operates in a given context.”

Political analyst John Makumbe said it would take more than just a new commission to effectively deal with corruption.

“I don’t see any difference with this new commission right now because there are no effective mechanisms to deal with corruption, so there’s nothing new to make the commission effective,” he said.

He observed that the commission was “a bit partisan” because, notwithstanding the involvement of all the three parties in government, it was only Zanu PF that still carried more weight and therefore wielded significant authority, but its commitment to fight graft has always been questionable.

“There will be no real commitment to fight corruption while Zanu PF is still in power,” he said.

“The commission will be effective only if there is regime change.”

Makumbe noted that the presence of corrupt people in influential positions would also make the graft-cracking commission impotent.

“As long as we still have people in power and in administrative offices, they will not allow the commission to be thoroughly effective in its work,” he said.

Makumbe concurred with Madhuku that the commission could perform wonders within the set-up of a completely new government rather than one in which the former ruling party is still a player.

Corruption watchdog, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), has said the commissioners should have been nominated through public platforms with their profiles set out in the public media.

“Its investigation and prosecution authority must also be entrenched in the constitution for it to be unfettered in its operations. It should furthermore be allowed to fundraise independently. This would further guarantee its independence and put to rest the problem of small fish-big fish,” TIZ said.

Analyst Ernest Mudzengi said the involvement of all participators in the shaky coalition government did not necessarily translate into effectiveness.

What was needed, he said, was a proper system that would allow the commission to carry out its mandate with integrity.

“The fact that the commission has been appointed by players in the Government of National Unity does not mean it will be effective,” he said. “The problem is that it lacks the mechanism that allows for the setting up of an independent commission that can do its work on the basis of professionalism and integrity.”

He said what was needed was a framework for an independent commission regardless of the personalities making up the commission.

It, however, remains to be seen whether or not this commission will be able to exorcise the demon that has haunted past commissions, rendering them ineffectual.

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