Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption efforts highly politicised

The United States Department of State has said Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption efforts remain highly politicised and selective, a development that has seen some high-ranking public figures engaged in corrupt practices go scot-free.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which during the former president Robert Mugabe era, was considered a toothless bulldog, now has arresting powers, which analysts say are abused.

 According to the 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Zimbabwe, recently released by the US Department of State, corruption remains one of the country’s biggest challenges with the government failing to decisively deal with the scourge.

“Despite government pronouncements, corruption remained a severe problem that experts described as “catch and release” where the government arrested corrupt officials but never prosecuted their crimes,” said the report. 

“Police frequently arrested citizens for low-level corruption while ignoring reports implicating high-level businesspersons and politicians. Corruption in both the public and private sectors persisted.  The country continued to experience both petty and grand corruption, defined respectively by Transparency International Zimbabwe as an “everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- to mid-level public officials” and “an abuse of high-level power by political elites.”

On January 31, last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa dismissed then ZACC board on allegations of incompetence and appointed Loice Matanda-Moyo as the new ZACC chairperson. 

In July ZACC acted on an audit firm’s report and arrested then Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Hospitality Industry Priscilla Mupfumira on seven counts of corruption linked to reported embezzlement of more than US$95 million from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA). 

“There was a concern, however, the ZACC was targeting high-profile officials who were rumoured to have fallen out of favour with President Mnangagwa, raising concerns the government’s anti-corruption efforts were highly politicised,” the report said.

The report further submitted that the implementation of the government’s redistribution of expropriated white-owned commercial farms often favoured the ZANU-PF elite and continued to lack transparency.

“High-level ZANU-PF officials selected numerous farms and registered them in the names of family members to evade the government’s policy of one farm per official,” said the report. 

“The government continued to allow individuals aligned with top officials to seize land not designated for acquisition.  The government began the mandated comprehensive land audit in 2018 to reflect land ownership accurately.  Landowners connected to ZANU-PF routinely sold land to citizens but refused to transfer ownership officially or to develop the land as agreed upon in contracts.”

Added the report: “The government announced its intention to partially compensate farmers whose lands had been expropriated and began making small, initial payments to a subset of farmers most in need. The Ministry of Finance made progress in removing unqualified persons from the state payroll by removing thousands of youth officers from various ministries.  According to the most recent audit, illicit salary payments were made to large numbers of persons who were retired, deceased, or otherwise absent from their place of employment.”

 Duplicate personally identifiable information in files, the report said, indicated some persons received multiple salaries.

“The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively or impartially, and officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity,” the report added.

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