Beware of Chirindo's corruption-busting crocodiles

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It would not be surprising that less than five in every 100 people in Zimbabwe have heard of the name Denford Chirindo.

It would, however, be an outright shocker if less than 80% of the population were to profess ignorance of the animal called the Anti-Corruption Commission of Zimbabwe (ACCZ).

The only other name or institution whose popularity blew across the country overnight other than, of course, those that got the fame for notoriety was the Sandura Commission which undressed thieving officials, claiming several ministerial scalps and at least one grave.

Chirindo is the chairperson of the ACCZ, arguably the only commission set up in this government which has lived up to peoples expectations and whose activities must be supported and its personnel protected from both harm and contamination.

For the benefit of those that may not be in the know what this creature called the ACCZ is, a brief background maybe needful.

The ACCZ consists of a chairperson and five other members appointed by the President in consultation with the Parliament Committee on Standing Rules and Orders according to section 156 of the Constitution.

They are appointed for a five-year term and may be re-appointed for one further such term, but the law does not allow anyone to serve in the commission for more than 10 years (two terms).

Its functions include investigating and combating cases of corruption and abuse of power in both public and private sectors. It is also the commissions mandate to direct the Commissioner-General of Police to investigate and report cases of suspected corruption.

The Commissioner-General of Police (presently Augustine Chihuri) must comply with any directive given to him by the ACCZ under subsection (3)(d) of the Constitution.

Members of the ACCZ must be persons of integrity, chosen for their knowledge of and experience in administration or the prosecution or investigation of crime. The commission must comprise lawyers, auditors and criminal investigators.

The ACCZ has already left impressive footprints at many public and private institutions, including the Grain Marketing Board where several officials have been arrested for criminal activities, at Parliament and at the courts where an MP and a prosecutor have been arrested, at Zifa where former football chief Henrietta Rushwaya was picked up and thrown behind bars for issues to do with Asiagate and at Chitungwiza Municipality where once untouchable persons ended up begging for the Lazarus drop of water from behind bars.

The list is long and (hopefully) grows longer.
The call is for Zimbabwe to allow the commissions tentacles to reach every sector in all corners of the country. The prayer is for the commissions men and women not to grow cold feet or to get tainted by the corruption they seek to stamp out.

One thing Zimbabweans should fight together to do is to stop anyone from smothering the commission because attempts to do so are very likely.

Zimbabweans are right now excited with the work of the anti-corruption teams, but I suggest they could go a notch higher by employing even more effective methods. A High Court judge some place in India who had a job similar to our Chirindo used unique ways.

Whenever his teams raided suspects offices, they took with them photographers and reporters so that they could capture the arrest of corrupt officials and seizure of their ill-gotten wealth, and expose them on TV and in newspapers.

The strategy was to put such officials to shame before they could try to pull strings to escape punishment. It worked miracles and the public liked it. Like our own Sandura, the judge became a star overnight.

Corrupt individuals shivered at the mention of his name and citizens looked up to him for justice. Such a strategy will result in more awareness of the functions of the commission and will encourage the public to report cases of corruption.

What government should move to do is to give the commission the power to confiscate property earned by illegal means. The commission must be given the leeway to employ enough staff to cover as much of the country as possible.

There are views that so far the commission has picked up only the small fish, which is not entirely incorrect, but it is also true that there are even smaller fish which are, in their millions like kapenta, eating away rural, district and provincial public offices with corruption.

They must nip in the bud the growing tendency for officials at the birth and death registration offices to demand $3 for the issuance of a death certificate when the cost for such a document is just $2.

Let us get this far down and go up to the large corporate moguls plundering the nation as if the countrys resources belong to them alone.

At the rate Chirindos teams are bagging them, public confidence is very likely to grow and the ACCZ should expect a deluge of reports genuine cases that had all along been left to pass as Zimbabweans had literally accepted corruption as a way of life.

Society has learned to live with corruption, even considering it, fatalistically, as an integral part of their culture.

In countries such as ours where corruption has become commonplace, institutions such as the ACCZ and also the media can help, but the real impediments are as much the interests of the politico-administrative apparatus as the fatalism and ignorance of the victims, maintained by a culture of fear nurtured by those who benefit from corruption.

Feedback: tchipangura@newsday.co.zw