BY BLESSED MHLANGA
OPPOSITION MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has called for a complete overhaul of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government departments to curb the scourge of corruption, which has permeated almost all public institutions.
Chamisa told NewsDay that in the wake of recent damning audit reports on Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) and Hwange Colliery Company Limited, which confirmed deep-rooted corruption involving some top government officials, including some in Cabinet, it was trite to have a complete overhaul and change the way heads of parastatals and permanent secretaries are appointed.
“I have always said Mr Mnangagwa must not look far if he is looking for corruption, corrupt people and criminals. He must just look around himself and search deep within,” Chamisa said.
Ironically, when the new dispensation took over in November 2017, the military claimed it was dealing with criminals that were surrounding then President Robert Mugabe, which it said it wanted to get rid of.
“We have a lot of criminals occupying public office, they are professionalising crime or they are criminalising a profession because we have deployed criminals whose credentials are questionable. Known criminals occupy offices of significance. That is an act of corruption, cheating in elections is an act of corruption. That’s why we need independent and strong institutions,” Chamisa added.
The opposition leader’s call came after Mnangagwa last week admitted that corruption had burrowed into all facets of his government, from the police, the Judiciary and all the way up to his top lieutenants.
He indicated that State institutions required urgent cleansing.
Speaking to State broadcaster ZBC-TV on the eve of Independence Day celebrations last week, Mnangagwa said: “I now realise that corruption is deep-rooted. I thought that by pronouncing that let’s fight corruption, those who are corrupt will fear and stop. It’s not like that. It’s so rooted that you have to fight it from A to Z. (In) most systems, structures and institutions, there is an element of corruption.”
Chamisa said to nip the scourge in the bud, government needs to launch a new recruitment exercise, with all top civil servants appointed after being confirmed through public interviews led by Parliament.
“Corruption is deep and rife because we don’t have oversight. We must not have a Parliament which is a barking dog. It must be a biting dog. The President must go back to Parliament to report. He must have a question-and-answer session so that he faces the people,” he said.
“All commissions (must be) independent. Yes, we have the Standing Rules and Orders Committee, but we must actually even go further. (Cabinet)ministers must be subjected to a parliamentary select committee. All key appointments like permanent secretaries, directors, when we form government, all presidential appointees must be subjected to the test of Parliament through hearings to test the credentials of individuals who occupy public office,” Chamisa said.
Mnangagwa has, since taking office, been talking tough on corruption and has since vowed to clamp down on the vice.
However, despite setting up an anti-corruption crack unit to prosecute high-profile corruption cases, he has failed to secure convictions to shake the underworld.
Nearly all top corruption cases brought before the courts have crumbled, with many accused persons being acquitted, in what Chamisa described as “a catch and release game”.
“Look at the Zinara audit report, it’s stinking to high heaven. Look at the Hwange report, it’s also stinking to high heaven. Who is being fingered there? The big guys, the shot-callers, but have you even seen any fatcat being jailed for corruption? No! They just do catch and release,” he said.
Chamisa emphasised that unless Mnangagwa looks deep within his team and makes useful interventions, there would be no change.
“What shocks me is the institutionalisation and deception by these colleagues. Do you tell me that the corruption that is happening in Zimbabwe is not known at the top? It’s known,” he said.