The recent order by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for Cabinet ministers and top government officials to declare their assets, presumably to foster transparency and fight endemic graft, is plausible, timely and critical if Zimbabwe still entertains any prospects of achieving a quantum leap in economy growth.
It is clear that international business is premised on transparency in the governance system of any State actor, and hence the end of February deadline for bureaucrats to account for their assets should not be seen as demanding too much.
We believe it is not too long ago when Mnangagwa was attacked for including suspected corrupt individuals in his administration for political expediency at the expense of the nation, and it is not too late to sacrifice some if it is found that they cannot account for everything they call theirs.
Yet, while Mnangagwa’s order is good on paper, one must not be hasty to celebrate and forget that there is nothing new in this approach because even ousted former President Robert Mugabe attempted that, but the outcome of the exercise was kept away from public scrutiny. This could have been Mugabe’s most important tool to silence anyone with ambition to rule this country.
Zimbabweans must question Mnangagwa’s motive in all this because it is the foremost and critical thing. Citizens should only celebrate if for those who would fail to account for their treasures, justice would be allowed to prevail.
There is widespread suspicion that most career ministers and public officials have used their positions of influence to accrue filthy lucre.
It is our prayer that those who will not be able to account for, or justify, their obscene wealth, will be brought to book and justice must take its course. It is an open secret that for many years, public officials have been pilfering State coffers and were allowed to get away with it, and would only be punished should they find themselves on a collision course with Mugabe.
Therefore, this exercise should not be academic, neither should Mnangagwa pursue the same route Mugabe trudged on, but the new President should demonstrate that he does not have ulterior motives by making a public declaration of the wealth owned by those in his government.
For the first time, we are keen to have a situation where the President would not use these disclosures for his own personal and selfish agenda. May this opportunity be truly utilised to create a new culture of honesty, trust and openness, something that has long been taboo in Zimbabwean politics.
One thing that we cannot escape from is that corruption had become a culture in this country, and so has the fact that those responsible were never brought to account for their often sudden and inexplicable wealth. It is our contention that these developments will set us on a new trajectory that will clean up all our systems. This is one way to attract the much-needed foreign direct investment that Zimbabwe is desperate for. It is not a witch-hunt, neither is it a tool to silence critics, but an honest way to reboot the country’s economy for the benefit of all — today, tomorrow and many other generations to come.