guest column:Anadi Arnold Sululu
I WAS following social media postings in the past few weeks, where cases of corruption allegations in South Africa and Zimbabwe, among other African countries, were exploding.
It jolted me to revisit a chapter on corruption in an unfinished book which I am currently penning.
The recommendations I earlier made gave me an urge to ignite talk about corrupt practices, and stimulate debate with a view to finding a lasting solution to this vice.
In 2012, then President Robert Mugabe stunned the whole nation when he announced that US$15 billion of Zimbabwe’s diamond revenue had gone missing. I was baffled.
I realised that the old man had guts to tell fellow citizens such depressing news when the majority of the people were already distressed by poverty.
Many tough-minded critics asked questions and raised their voices high, but no action has been taken — either to follow up on these damaging allegations, or to check if any culprits had been brought to book. A whole US$15 billion just went missing. But how, is the question that has not been answered?
Sadly, Mugabe went to his grave without letting the cat out of the bag. He did not divulge who was involved and why he raised the issue. Surely, this was not a joke. He was serious. How can a whole nation be kept in darkness on such an important matter that affects it directly? All that stolen money was foreign currency. It is not the useless bond paper money.
In 2011, each Member of Parliament was allocated US$50 000 under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) during the coalition government.
I give thanks to all the united 210 MPs who debated positively and convinced the Executive to act wisely.
Unfortunately, corruption reared its ugly head and some constituencies did not benefit anything as MPs and some ministers diverted the funds to their own use.
An audit was done and its findings were documented in a publication produced by the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.
I understand that the publication was never distributed to the public because it exposed serious corruption by some named ministers.
They converted to personal use the whole US$50 000 they got for the development of their constituencies.
Reliable sources told us both Mugabe and then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (both now late) shelved the document to avoid havoc and preferred to keep the government of national unity intact.
Nevertheless, assuming that the US$15 billion was distributed to the 210 constituencies in Zimbabwe, each was to receive US$71 500 000. Surely this money would do wonders.
Our constituency, Silobela, could have been changed and become a developed rural area and heading towards town status by now.
Imagine new schools, new clinics, recreational centres, libraries, dams and irrigation schemes would have been constructed with that money.
The 15km potholed strip road between Kwekwe and Silobela could have been tarred with US$15 million. Road engineers told us in 2010 that it cost roughly US$800 000 to
US$1 000 000 to construct and tar a 1km stretch.
When we received our US$50 000 CDF batches in 2011, I called all 14 councillors for a budget meeting and we agreed to drill nine boreholes for nine wards out of the 14 wards in our constituency.
The former Prime Minister was invited to officiate at the opening of some of them in 2012. Silobela is one of the largest rural constituencies in Zimbabwe, with 51 polling stations.
Its area is almost three times bigger than Harare yet it has one MP and Harare has 20 MPs, leaving one to wonder about the beneficial effects of the demarcation process used.
Sadly, such rural areas all over Zimbabwe are neglected by the government and the dwellers live in the same poor conditions since 1980. That explains why most rural folks remain regrettably poor. It is because of corruption.
They are remembered and baited with pittance donations months before an election just to get their votes.
Just imagine the development that could have been done in the other 209 constituencies in Zimbabwe if the US$15 billion from diamond revenue had been accounted for.
I look at the employment opportunities lost for the unemployed youths and the possible benefits that the hard-working rural communities would have got.
Sadly, these funds lined the pockets of a few political elites who have amassed wealth and built luxury homes in foreign lands and in affluent suburbs of Harare.
I strongly believe it is time the laws of our poor sovereign countries need a revisit. Most of these laws were originated in colonial times when government corruption was invisible.
Nowadays, corruption is all over and is spreading like wildfire. It has become the norm and most politicians seek public office to enrich themselves.
It explains why all promises made during election campaigns are never honoured and implemented, leaving the masses to suffer in most African countries.
It is in this context that I am also aware of the growing argument that those who steal from State coffers in most African countries must be sent to the gallows — hanged.
The reasoning is that in the Old Testament, it was clearly made lawful and inscribed that if you were caught committing crimes of pilfering, adultery, rape and so on, you were stoned to death. Even to this day, some Arabic and other States still have such laws.
I would not go so far as to say that those who commit acts of corruption should be hanged. It is time that corruption is stopped lest masses die poor and the corrupt die filthy rich.
Governments talk of good governance yet they practise the opposite. Africa is endowed with natural resources, yet it has the poorest communities in the world.
It is time the country’s leaders acknowledge that corruption is real and destructive and espouse a political will to effect change in the poor communities.
I, therefore, propose that harsher sentences such as life in prison, depending on pilfered amounts, be considered.
It is in the same vein that I call upon all legislators and political parties in parliaments across Africa to start an honest debate on constructive strategies to flush out corrupt elements in public and private offices.
In most African countries, you will inevitably find that the laws and structures to combat corruption are present, but implementation awfully lacks.
This is occasioned by the fact that those involved are in many instances politically connected. We talk of eradicating poverty yet the gap between the rich and poor in Africa is widening.
South Africa and Zimbabwe are two good examples of countries in Africa in which the suffering of ordinary people as a result of graft is appalling and alarming.
It is no surprise that funds budgeted and donated for the current COVID-19 epidemic in these States were swept away by corrupt and politically connected officials.
Demonstrations and strikes by civil servants are now the order of the day because they are disgruntled.
Communities and peoples’ representatives should be cajoled to consider lengthy sentences for those involved in corruption. This can only be done when current laws have been tightened.