Zimbabweans should have been disgusted reading that some Members of Parliament have been in the habit of corruptly overstating fuel claims thereby prejudicing Parliament’s coffers of several thousands of dollars that could have been used to improve parliamentary business.
Legislators, by virtue of their presence in the august House, should be above reproach as far as the handling of public funds is concerned. Their oversight role over the Executive entails that they themselves have the moral authority to apply the checks and balances that keep the country’s rulers on the straight and narrow.
According to Speaker of the House of Assembly Jacob Mudenda, corruption is rife among the so-called “honourable” Members of Parliament some of whom shamelessly claim more money than they would have used as they undertake parliamentary business.
Such acts of blatant corruption should be stopped. Given the high levels of corruption in the country MPs should be at the forefront of fighting graft and should, therefore, exercise high levels of probity. Parliament should forthwith investigate and establish who among the MPs inflated their fuel allocations and involved themselves in other acts of corruption. Those found guilty should not only be shamed, but also punished accordingly.
It shouldn’t matter whether they belong to the majority party or to the opposition, errant MPs should be brought to account so a clear message is sent that there is zero tolerance on corruption. It will be difficult for the MPs to fight sleaze given that they themselves are engaging in dishonest activities.
Parliament should also tighten its systems so it can detect such acts before they get out of hand. Effectively dealing with rogue MPs only interested in enriching themselves will send a clear message to like-minded people that such behaviour will not go unpunished.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time MPs have been caught on the wrong side of the law and got away with it.
In 2012, at least 20 MPs reportedly abused the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) meant to fund projects that benefit their constituencies.
Only three were arrested and charged with misappropriation of the funds. Sadly, their prosecution was stopped following the intervention of the then Attorney-General’s Office headed by Johannes Tomana.
It is such interventions that should be condemned in the strongest of terms as it should be clear to everyone else that no one is above the law.
We expect MPs to behave in a much better manner given that they craft legislations that have a bearing on our lives and so therefore should be exemplary in society.
Part of the reason why Zimbabwe has been in this mess is a result of the failure by responsible authorities to deal with blatant acts of corruption especially at State institutions.
The law has been seen to favour the powerful at the expense of the weak. Ordinary citizen who commit the smallest of offences spend time behind bars while heads of institutions and MPs continue to roam the streets freely when they have committed heinous crimes.