New regional frontline against corruption

By Lovemore Ranga Mataire

Regional leaders that have assumed power over the last three years or so seem to have identified corruption as the greatest scourge impeding development and have made the fight against graft a priority.

In Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa, the issue of corruption has taken centre-stage with leaders making definite resolve to deal with the problem.

In his first State of the Nation address after assuming the presidency, Zimbabwean leader Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged to tackle corruption.

He said corruption was his biggest challenge in growing the economy and creating jobs.

“Corruption remains the major source of some of the problems we face as a country, and its retarding impact on national development cannot be overemphasised. The goal of my government is to build a new Zimbabwe based on the crown values of honesty, transparency, accountability and hard work,” said Mnangagwa.

He said individual cases of corruption needed to be investigated and punished in accordance with the dictates of the law. Mnangagwa said his government will have zero tolerance towards corruption.

True to his word, several cases of graft involving high rankling government officials have been uncovered. Former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, former Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi and former Energy Minister Samuel Undenge have all been arraigned before the courts facing various allegations of corruption and abuse of office.

Zimbabwe is currently ranked 154 out of 176 countries on the Transparency International 2016 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) with a score of 22 points, from 21 over the previous years.

In Namibia, President Hage Geingob has also pledged to root out corruption. In his 2017 April State of the Nation address, Geingob said those found on the wrong side of the law would be arrested.

He gave the examples of the cancellation of the N$7 billion Hosea Kutako International Airport upgrading tender, the SME Bank saga, tax evasion and money laundering cases involving businessman Chinese Jack Huang.

Namibia is lowly ranked on the prevalence of corruption index but continued emergence of cases over the years puts that ranking under threat.

According to the 2016 Corruption Index released by Transparency International, Namibia’s score dropped slightly from 53 in 2015 to 52 in the 2016 index.

In Angola, President Joao Lourenco has vowed to recover money siphoned out of the oil-rich state, saying his campaign against corruption should not be seen as the “persecution” of wealth families.

Speaking at a seminar on crime in December last year, Lourenco said that Angolans who had illegally stashed money abroad should bring it back and invest it in the country, or else the government would take steps to recover the cash.

“Do not confuse the fight against corruption with persecution of the rich or of wealthy families. The rich are welcome as long as their fortunes are lawful,” he told the Angolan News Agency.

There has been speculation of tension between Lourenco and former President Eduardo dos Santos as the new president started asserting his authority by sacking his predecessor’s daughter Isabel as head of state oil company, Sonangol.

He also sacked the police and intelligence chiefs, despite parliament passing a law in the dying days of dos Santos’s rule that they remain in their posts for eight years.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi last November demanded of the bodies of the administration of justice that they carry out to the full their responsibility to detect and to punish, in exemplary fashion, corrupt officials.

He was speaking at the annual commemoration of the “Legality Day” held on November 5 last year. Nyusi said corruption brings discredit on the capacity and will of public servants to give the best of themselves for a better Mozambique.

He said the struggle against corruption is a struggle for legality and for compliance with the norms and procedures instituted by law for the management of public assets.

Nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, Tanzanian President John Magufuli has been by far the leading light in the fight against corruption in the region.

Since he began his reign, Magufuli has earned credibility for himself and his country for fighting corruption with Tanzania currently ranked among the top 20 countries in Africa with the worst corruption and is placed 117 out of 168 countries on the Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption index.

Six senior officials in the Tanzania Revenue Authority, including Commissioner General Rashid Bade, were fired. Also suspended was the director general of the Tanzania Ports Authority, Ephraim Mgawe, over a scandal involving the non-payment of $40 million in import taxes.

Like Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe, Mugufuli slashed his cabinet from 30 to 19 by merging ministries. He also banned inessential foreign travels for politicians and business class flights for all but the most senior figures.

In fact, Magufuli has skipped major international and regional summits such as those for the regional bloc, SADC, preferring to send ambassadors or ministers to represent him.

Faced with pressure from opposition political parties and the courts, South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday appointed a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by deputy chief justice Ray Zondo.

It would appear that the issue of corruption is dominating regional discourse and failure in dealing with the scourge will definitely perpetuate economic disparities.

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