ED advisers push for graft amnesty

.... Zacc’s anti-corruption drive goes a gear up

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BERNARD MPOFU/NDAMU SANDU

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption drive has come under the spotlight after his advisers recommended an amnesty on those accused of corruption at a time the country’s anti-graft body has upped the ante in fighting white collar crime, Business Times heard this week.

Several high profile government officials have been arrested and prosecuted on corruption charges since Mnangagwa took oath of office in 2017. The move by Mnangagwa’s advisers comes at a time when there have been combined forces involving the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), National Prosecution Authority, Auditor General’s office, Immigration Department, Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit and two local universities to fight graft which experts say retards development.

Since getting arresting powers, ZACC has declared war on corruption and arrested former Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira on corruption allegations. She is out on bail after spending nearly two months in detention. But the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), a grouping of various sector leaders appointed this year to assist Mnangagwa, believes an amnesty is required before attacking the scourge.

“The new dispensation has a unique window of opportunity to leave an enduring legacy by moving with speed to draw the curtain on corruption. The option of an amnesty followed by a declaration of war on corruption offers this unique opportunity and should be seized with both hands,” PAC said in a letter to Mnangagwa dated August 8, 2019.

“Exercising this option gives your administration a unique opportunity to close the chapter on the past, draw a line in the sand, and move forward on the basis of probity and rectitude.”

The council said citizens are “dismayed and angered” by the existence of corrupt cartels that are responsible for causing “tremendous hardships” to citizens. “There is a widespread perception that these cartels exist in foreign currency, fuel, gold, tobacco, and chrome sectors—to name the most prominent ones,” the council said.

“We would like to believe that the individuals or organizations driving these cartels are known to the authorities. Zimbabweans are at a loss as to why these cartels are allowed to continue to operate freely while they are wreaking so much damage to the economy and to the welfare of citizens.”

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment last night.

Information secretary Nick Mangwana professed ignorance on the contents of the letter but however, said there was no government policy for amnesty on those involved in “malfeasance practices”.

“The advice given to the President is very confidential therefore I cannot authenticate whatever you have. The President is not going into a stadium where people shout advice to him, ”Mangwana said in a telephone interview last night. PAC said citizens want strong, visible and urgent action to be taken against the “real culprits (the tigers) and not just the runners or small fish” adding that without that trust and confidence will not be restored.

In his second State of the Nation Address last week, Mnangagwa accused
corruption of retarding development and robbing the economy of revenue.
“Government will continue to strengthen institutions that help in the fight against corruption. We must rid our society of this corruption cancer and to
this, there is no going back. It’s time to increase accountability and transparency,” Mnangagwa said.

According to a recent Transparency International corruption perception
index, Zimbabwe is ranked 160 out of 175 countries. The perception index ranks countries on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be from a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

There has been rampant abuse of State resources at all levels of government. For several years, the auditor-general Mildred Chiri has been presenting reports to Parliament exposing corrupt practices but no action has been taken against the perpetrators.

PAC noted “ongoing and deepening signs of lack of collaboration between
monetary and fiscal authorities” where there appears to be a “war of attrition” between Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and central bank chief John Mangudya. The duo has dismissed the rift saying there is a good working relationship.

“It is now an open secret in the market and this perception—real or imagined—is undermining confidence in the financial market as well as among the general populace,” the committee said.

“It is extremely difficult to achieve currency stability as long as this perception persists. The conflict needs to be nipped in the bud before it causes irreparable damage to the reform programme.”

It said the discord has resulted in the interbank market not functioning
properly, pleading with Mnangagwa to intervene to rescue the situation.
“We believe that without your strong and urgent intervention, all the gains
achieved to date on the economic reform front will be reversed with dire
consequences for the country,” PAC said.