Felex Share Herald Reporter
Government must commission an inquiry on the lines of the Sandura Commission of the late ’80s to probe obscene salaries and operations of executives of all parastatals, legal experts and political commentators have said.This follows revelations that top managers of some parastatals and local authorities are taking home huge salaries and perks while their organisations wallow in debt and deprivation.
The experts said only an inquiry would help stop the rampant pilfering of State resources by people mandated to oversee the operations of quasi-Government institutions.
Mr Terrence Hussein of Hussein and Ranchod Legal practitioners said alleged corruption in state enterprises such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Air Zimbabwe and PSMAS warranted a commission of inquiry.
“The cases need an inquiry because it seems the so-called corruption is widespread. It looked like it was one organisation but it seems there are many parastatals in that category,” Mr Hussein said.
“Usually it is the President who calls for that inquiry in terms of the (Commissions of Inquiry) Act and he does so because he would have seen the gravity of the matter.
“Investigations are normally done through the police and organisations themselves and the President in this case would rather take the route of an inquiry if he sees that the two methods will not get to the bottom of the matter. The President can appoint investigators under the Commissions of Inquiry Act if the matter is for ‘public welfare’.
Reads the Act: “The President may, when he considers it advisable, by proclamation, appoint a commission of inquiry consisting of one or more commissioners and may authorise the commissioner or commissioners or any quorum of them specified in the proclamation to inquire into the conduct of any officer in the public service, the conduct of any chief …, the conduct or management of any department of the public service or any public or local institution, or into any matter in which any inquiry would, in the opinion of the President, be for the public welfare.”
Another lawyer Mr Norman Mugiya said the abuse of anything of national interest called for a commission of inquiry.
“All issues that have a national interest which fall under a particular ministry should be administered with utmost transparency.
“The person at the helm of the ministry concerned or who is above him like the President is not a police officer neither is he an investigator and the only way he can articulate issues in his ministries, in this case corruption and other obscenities, is by establishing a commission of inquiry.
“An inquiry would, on his behalf, source for evidence on what could have happened and it is also a framework on which police can start investigations.”
Former Attorney-General Mr Sobusa Gula-Ndebele said an inquiry was an administrative issue.
“If something is not clear and answers are needed then an inquiry can be commissioned,” he said. “It all depends on the level of corruption to determine who sets up the commission. It might be the President, ministry or any other body.”
Said lawyer Mr Dumisani Mthombeni: “Where there is reasonable suspicion that an offence of this magnitude was committed, like in this case, a commission of inquiry should be established because the corruption is rampant.
“Parliament, in its oversight role has recommended that Cuthbert Dube be prosecuted. You do not just start by prosecution but by making an inquiry, look into the goings on in parastatals and after gathering evidence you recommend that police open a charge.”
He said those accused of corruption should be blacklisted and have their assets forfeited and returned when they are cleared.
Mr Cyprian Ndawana said an inquiry was necessary because the community had “screamed foul”.
“A dismissal does not satisfy the community and what we need is an inquiry followed by prosecution and restitution. They should give back the things they ill-got from people. It is an opportunity to rid ourselves of tendencies of enriching ourselves at the expense of societies.”
Other callers urged Government to capacitate the Anti-Corruption Commission so that it can act on allegations of rampant abuse of state resources.
Justice Wilson Sandura presided over the Sandura Commission which claimed the scalps of several political leaders in the wake of a vehicle scandal, commonly referred to as the Willowgate scandal.
In December 1988, President Mugabe appointed a three-member panel, the Sandura Commission, to investigate allegations of the resale of cars bought at a cheaper prices from Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries at ridiculously high prices.
A provincial governor and five Cabinet ministers eventually resigned when they were implicated in the scandal. For more than seven weeks, the commission called 72 witnesses, including six Cabinet ministers, two deputy ministers, three Members of Parliament, two senior army officers and 40 directors and managers of private companies.
Zimbabwe has 66 State enterprises and parastatals.