Corruption: No more kid’s gloves, please

Corruption: No more kid’s gloves, please Happison Muchechetere
Happison Muchechetere

Happison Muchechetere

Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker, Sir

It is important that ministers or boards take decisive action against officials in parastatals who misappropriate funds than be intimidated just because one has stayed in the institution for a long time.

The suspension of NetOne chief executive officer Reward Kangai earlier this week was received with mixed feelings with optimists saying it was a step in the right direction by Government in its war again financial improprieties and misconduct.

On the other hand, pessimists argued there was nothing to write home about as previous corruption cases that were once widely exposed in the media died a natural death.

Mr Speaker Sir, these are the kind of actions or responses from Government that have made the majority of Zimbabweans dispirited about the fight against corruption in this country.

So many cases have been reported and most of the culprits convicted in the court of public opinion but incredibly some of them have continued to walk scot-free to this day despite the cases being so glaring in the eyes of ordinary citizens.

What amazes many people is the fact that the law seems to bite when it comes to minor corruption cases while the major cases appear immuniSed against detection or prosecution.

Cuthbert Dube

Cuthbert Dube

The treatment of a police officer who was nabbed in Kuwadzana Extension recently for mounting an illegal roadblock and issuing fake tickets to motorists should present a template of how Zimbabweans abhor corruption.

We cannot have a system where “small” thieves are prosecuted while “big” thieves are promoted.

Everyone must be equal before the law, as such the kind of treatment that offenders get must be proportionate to the gravity of the crime committed.

For instance, it defies logic how a small crime attracts almost $1 000 bail while what is considered a big crime sees one paying about $300 only.

These are the kind of disparities that result in ordinary people questioning the logic of legal provisions in the country.

Mr Speaker Sir, what Zimbabweans tend to believe now is the fact that many of the culprits who are caught on the wrong side of the law may only be axed from work but rarely are they successfully prosecuted, raising questions as to whether our laws are adequate in the fight against the vice that threatens to destroy the country if not cured as a matter of urgency.

The other concern is the delay in dealing with corruption cases by the courts, some of which take years before they are concluded.

Oftentimes, these cases are adjourned and deferred on weak grounds which once again raises the question whether there is commitment in the State’s war against corruption.

Worse still, Government or its departments seem to dilly-dally in prosecuting some culprits resulting in the general public losing track of the status of such crimes.

For instance, how many Zimbabweans today are in the picture of Happison Muchechetere and Cuthbert Dube’s cases?

This once again raises the question whether Zimbabwe has adequate laws to prosecute offenders or the law is just a paper tiger.

There is therefore an urgent need to accelerate corruption trials in all the courts instead of them being deferred for no justifiable reasons.

The major concern in delaying disposing of these cases is that in the event of the court ordering restitution, the longer the trial takes, the higher the chances culprits will spend the money or dispose of whatever they would have spent the money on.

Mr Speaker Sir, this column will for the umpteenth time cite the Constitution on Section 308 (1) and (2) which call on officials responsible for expenditure of public funds and those in control of public property to ensure public funds are safeguarded and spent on legally authorised purposes and amounts and to safeguard the property to ensure it’s not lost, destroyed, damaged or misused.

Subsection (4) states: “An Act of Parliament must provide for the speedy detection of breaches of Subsections (2) and (3) and the disciplining and punishment of persons responsible for any such breaches and, where appropriate, the recovery of misappropriated funds or property.”

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, as such it must be religiously followed to its letter and spirit.

However, the delay in enacting an Act of Parliament in line with Subsection (4) leaves a bitter taste in the mouth because this could be an escape route for the majority of public officials who have misappropriated public funds or property.

This could explain why it has taken long for the State to prosecute the likes of Cuthbert Dube, which could set a bad precedent for the likes of Kangai and others that are yet to be busted.

Mr Speaker Sir, what is clear is the fact that while there was goodwill in the crafting of the Constitution, there is need to follow that up with commitment to implementing its provisions.

The provision on restitution is one of the major positives in the Constitution.

What should be the guiding principle is that whether the people involved in corruption are jailed or not, they must just return the money.

The State must make it its primary goal to recover public funds that were stolen.

The law must without fear or favour take its course on public officials who defy it.

It is regrettable that the same law protects culprits where they are deemed innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law.

Their success in the courts is not necessarily because they have not committed the crime but because of the aptitude of their lawyers to argue their case which is what guides the judiciary.

Mr Speaker Sir, the law must take care of corruption and not vice versa where culprits go scot-free courtesy of their brilliant lawyers.

At the end of the day, injustice is served.

It is therefore critical that if Government is serious about its commitment to wage a protracted war against corruption, there is urgent need to identify all the gaps that exist in the law and plug them to ensure that no culprit goes scot-free regardless of the brilliance of their lawyer.

Mr Speaker Sir, prosecution of culprits serves justice to the State while restitution does justice to the citizens.

It is important that ministers or boards take decisive action against officials in parastatals who misappropriate funds than be intimidated just because one has stayed in the institution for a long time.

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