One of the major stumbling blocks in the fight against corruption is lack of will by public office bearers who continue to be shrouded in mystery when it comes to accumulation of wealth.
Report by Munyaradzi T Nkomo
Various organisations and institutions, including the media, have on numerous occasions called upon top government officials to account for the wealth they have accumulated. However, nothing meaningful has materialised.
It is high time the accused persons came out to the public and accounted for assets accrued.
According to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, Zimbabwe is ranked 154 out of 183 countries and territories assessed; the country has a score below 5 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean).
Zimbabwe currently has a score of 2,2 which means it is ranked among the most corrupt countries in terms of perceived levels of public sector corruption. The situation on the ground also reflects similarities when one looks at issues currently obtaining in Zimbabwe.
Eyebrows have been raised on how public office bearers have amassed wealth at the expense of ordinary citizens.
It is shocking to note that senior government officials reportedly own properties worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) while public service delivery is crippled as each day passes in Zimbabwe.
Reports reveal that a number of government officials own vast properties in places such as Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Gwanda, Kadoma and Harare, among others. On the other hand, it is alleged that some ministers are so rich that they have acquired council land across the country under unclear circumstances.
There has been a public outcry over alleged corruption by misappropriation of funds at the central bank, but to date nothing has been done to dig deeper into the allegations. More so, the accused persons have the right to come out and inform the public on whether or not these allegations are true.
Such practices have been fuelled by lack of stricter legislative frameworks that compel public office bearers to declare their assets so that their accumulation of wealth is not construed for corruption.
According to media reports, ministers are constructing multi-million-dollar mansions and one wonders where they are getting the money to finance such projects while the inclusive government is struggling to adequately pay its workers.
Demands have been made to compel senior government officials to account for the wealth they have amassed, but nothing substantive has materialised. Transparency International Zimbabwe strongly believes there is need for the enactment of asset disclosure laws consistent with Article 8, paragraph 5 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption which obliges every signatory (of which Zimbabwe is) to establish measures requiring public officials to declare their assets.
Zimbabweans should take a leaf from Brazil’s Supreme Court which on October 9, 2012 showed that there will be no impunity for politicians when it convicted leading members of the ruling party on corruption charges.
According to Transparency International, this was part of a highly-publicised trial of 40 politicians and businesspeople.
Further, the reports reveal that 40 people from the business and political sectors are being tried for their involvement in the so-called Mensalão scam (oldest, most scandalous case of corruption ever to have taken place in Brazil) which broke in 2005. The charges, which include corruption, money-laundering and illicit payments, relate to a scheme to provide monthly payments — or mensalão — to politicians to buy the votes necessary to keep the then president’s party in power.
With the impending elections in Zimbabwe, there is need to come up with a legislative framework that will compel political leaders, parliamentarians, ministers and top public office bearers to declare their assets before assuming office.
The electorate, on the flipside, should look beyond party lines in choosing representatives. Integrity should be a pre-determining factor for anyone seeking the mandate of the people in any democracy.
Lack of will on the part of political leaders and government officials in fighting corruption has been cited as one of the impediments towards achieving a corruption-free Zimbabwe.
Ordinary citizens, through the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, have lamented the slow pace in investigating and arresting legislators accused of having embezzled the Constituency Development Fund.
Many ordinary Zimbabweans have called upon the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to speed up investigations on all corruption cases and arrest offenders.
The public believes corruption and lack of accountability is creating serious leakages in the economy which adversely affect the funding of critical development projects in the country and sharing of national resources equally.
Nkomo is information officer for Transparency International Zimbabwe