Guest Column: Paidamoyo Muzulu
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s façade of a reformist and corruption buster is cracking, revealing the real man who wants power at all costs, celebrating with shady characters and has no scruples about deploying the military with lethal force to quell perceived violent demonstrations by the exasperated opposition MDC.
The Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) are still on the statutes, nearly two years after Mnangagwa assumed office post the November 2017 coup. The police and the military can still do their duties with impunity, particularly when dealing with maintenance of peace and order.
This was exhibited on August 1, 2018 when opposition activists marched in Harare calling for the immediate release of the presidential poll results.
Six activists and bystanders were mowed down in a ruthless show of force never experienced in any city before and after independence in Zimbabwe. The atrocities were committed right in front of local and foreign media as if it was a military parade in some despotic Eastern Europe country.
A year later, no security persons have been brought to book for the heinous crime against humanity, and Mnangagwa the “reformist” has only issued statements about regret over the incident.
Early this year, the security services were at it again when they brutally crushed the January fuel price hike protests.
Human rights organisations say about 17 people were left dead and dozens maimed. Again, no thorough investigation into the action of the military was done and no one was punished.
Fast forward to last Friday, the regime changed tact, but its iron-clad hand was as heavy as previously experienced in the two aforementioned instances. The police, barely 12 hours before the opposition demonstration, invoked a section of POSA, immediately banning demonstrations or pickets in the capital for three months.
The common thread in all the three incidents is that the State invoked the obnoxious POSA, a relic of the colonial regime statutes when it was called the Law and Order Maintenance Act.
The Rhodesian Justice and Law and Order minister Desmond Lardner-Burke did not hesitate to use the law to banish nationalists or have them detained without trial.
Besides Rhodesian Premier Ian Douglas Smith, Lardner-Burke was the second most hated white by nationalists. This is the same man who officially opened the Rotten Row Magistrates Courts and his plaque still has its place right at the entrance of the building many activists fear being hauled to.
They fear not because they are guilty, but they are aware that they can suffer pre-trial detention even if they are good and deserving candidates for bail pending trial.
Interestingly, the military and police did not care a hoot about POSA when they organised and carried the march to the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield at the peak of then President Robert Mugabe’s ouster.
Everything was arranged and executed in less than five days. The regime does not play by the rules, but everyone should toe the line. What rank hypocrisy!
Mnangagwa’s greatest failure to date is in tackling corruption. He put in place two decrees that were never implemented and have been quickly forgotten.
In December 2017, less than three weeks after usurping the reins, Mnangagwa said he had a list of individuals and corporates who externalised money and ordered that they repatriate it back within three months.
“I said under the new administration, we have given three months for those who have taken money out of this country to bring it back. I didn’t say that without knowledge. I have a list of who took money out. So in March, when the period expires, those who would not have heeded my moratorium, I will name and shame them,” Mnangagwa was quoted by the State-owned daily The Herald as saying.
When the list was finally released, more than 30% were Chinese, a number of ruling Zanu PF party honchos and benefactors. Your guess is as good as mine.
No one was arrested, no one was arraigned before the courts. We only heard that substantial amounts had been repatriated into the country. Can some MP call on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and ask for the list and amount of money that came back?
In January 2018, with the shadow of elections looming large, Mnangagwa issued another decree; Cabinet asset declaration. The decree was couched as a means to foster transparency and fighting corruption under the supposed new dispensation.
Mnangagwa said public officials were required to disclose details of their real estate, other property valued above US$100 000 and shareholdings in businesses by February 28, 2018.
One-and-a-half years later, there is no public record of the assets the top honchos have, and we say Mnangagwa is a reformist!
It seems, after all, Mnangagwa has no spine to deal with corruption. Any public listing of Cabinet and senior government officials’ assets and interests would expose the regime and close the gaps they have used over the last 40 years to strip the public assets.
The listing of their assets will make it easy for the public and media to pierce the corporate veil and link certain public tenders to the Cabinet and government officials.
To the contrary, neighbouring South Africa has bared it all and the assets and interests of senior public officials (MPs and Cabinet ministers) can be viewed online.
Auditor-General Mildred Chiri has, over the years, consistently produced audit reports that have implicated government officials in underhand dealings involving procurement of goods.
However, it remains a matter of conjecture as to who is involved and to what extent as their assets and interests remain hidden from the public.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe is compromised and cannot help in this regard. Since 1997, parliamentary reforms have called for MPs to declare their assets, but no one has done so. If the register is there, it has been kept a well-hidden secret.
This has perpetuated conflict of interest and witch-hunts during committee meetings. The public accusations between Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) and Chegutu West legislator Dexter Nduna (Zanu PF) exposed how parliamentarians are deeply involved in State tenders.
May the real Mnangagwa stand up, roll his sleeves and deliver on his promises of electoral reforms and corruption eradication.
Zanu PF has a two-thirds majority in Parliament, therefore, his hand is not constrained in amending or repealing the obnoxious pieces of legislation.
On declaration of assets, Mnangagwa must take the lead and go on to ask everyone in his government to publicly declare their assets and interests.
Until then, his rhetoric does not make him a reformist, not by any stretch of imagination, except that his name is not Mugabe.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a senior Zimbabwean journalist. He writes in his personal capacity. You can send feedback on firstname.lastname@example.org.