The Zanu PF primaries have come and gone, but the lingering worry for me is the number of people that have either criminal records or have been implicated in something dodgy that took part in the elections.
By NQABA MATSHAZI
At a time Zanu PF has been claiming to be fighting corruption, the primaries served up a motley crew of people that should be speaking to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission first before they even think of running for elections.
The enduring question now is why these people have had the courage to stand and contest on a Zanu PF ticket and if we should trust them with public office considering their chequered past.
This is not to anyway insinuate that a person cannot reform and be given a second chance, but the names on those ballot papers are enough to cause someone to stir and ask the hard questions.
There is the obvious case of Campion Mugweni who was sentenced to a five-year jail term in the US after he was found guilty of fraud, in what judiciary authorities in that country have described as “an elaborate scheme”.
Killer Zivhu was once found guilty of converting people’s money to his personal use.
There are other names that often prop up when it comes to impropriety, like businessman, Energy Mutodi, who has been dragged to the courts on allegations of fleecing house seekers, although he has not been convicted.
Then there is the case of Gilbert Muponda, who briefly fled the country after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe made a very public investigation into the collapsed ENG Capital.
While Muponda fought back and eventually won his issue, his case captured the nation’s imagination and it would be forever difficult for him to extricate himself from the allegations in the court of public opinion.
Without belabouring the point, there are many in Zanu PF who have several allegations hovering above their heads, who participated in the primaries, while some will go on to take part in the national elections.
Why this is worrying is because President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power on a platform of fighting corruption, but so far there has been little movement in that regard.
There was a flurry of arrests in the first few days of his rule, but sceptics quickly saw through that and accused him of only targeting people from a rival Zanu PF faction, while his supporters largely went unmolested.
So when Mnangagwa and Zanu PF allow people with questionable records to participate in primaries, cynics are bound to ask whether the so-called fight against corruption was nothing but a populist façade, which was completely forgotten the moment he consolidated power.
This is more worrying because when the military took over last November, new Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo announced that they were targeting criminal elements around the then President Robert Mugabe, but this is not met with delivery on the ground.
The sincerity of their intervention is now called into question, when people with less than clean records are seen challenging for high posts in Zanu PF, with no one as much as batting an eyelid.
What Zanu PF ought to have done was to check on the criminal records of all aspiring candidates and disqualified them.
It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but this is medicine that has to be taken if the party is to be believed that it has turned over a new leaf.
From the outside looking in, a reformed Zanu PF is a mirage, as long as such characters continue popping up, without the party taking any action.
Anyone with a questionable past should demonstrate beyond doubt that they have reformed, are rehabilitated and that they have contributed to community development in some way.
But this election is a little too soon for that, as this one should have been Zanu PF showing its commitment to fighting corruption and weaning itself off of anyone who has been caught with their fingers in the till.
This would have shown that the party wants a clean break from the Mugabe era and would then work towards rehabilitating those that have been found guilty in the past in the next polls.
To make matters worse, parliamentary portfolio committees have done so much work in exposing graft, but not a single person has been arrested or prosecuted in the wake of these exposés.
The Auditor General has done a fantastic job in bringing to the fore corrupt practices, but her work is often not complemented by the police nor the anti-corruption commission.
If the fight against corruption is to have an iota of believability, then Mnangagwa ought to look beyond his opponents and scrutinise his friends and the company he keeps, with a view of bringing anyone accused of graft to the book.
This begins by looking at his party members, those who supported him most fervently and those that contested primaries, with a view of disqualifying them until they can prove that their hands are clean or they have reformed.
It is a difficult path to take, but that is what leadership calls for, making the tough decisions.
Zanu PF should know that it is as good as the company it keeps and there are some who will judge the party and its leaders on who they choose to hobnob with.
If nothing is done, the sceptics will remain with one question: Who will target the criminals around the President this time?
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