Editorial Comment: Integrity pledges strengthen the honest, group them together The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has been building up its effectiveness to track down corruption, arrest those involved and provide the necessary evidence that can win convictions in court, having the corrupt jailed and the assets seized from those who cannot show how they bought those assets in the first place.

THE cynical might see the present campaign for senior civil servants to sign integrity pledges to fight corruption within their departments and ministries as little more than a gesture, but it obviously goes a lot further than that as a major effort to change the mindset of those involved.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has been building up its effectiveness to track down corruption, arrest those involved and provide the necessary evidence that can win convictions in court, having the corrupt jailed and the assets seized from those who cannot show how they bought those assets in the first place.

But ZACC, who see the hunting down of the corrupt as critical in the battle against dishonesty, has also been building up its campaigns of stopping corruption in the first place. 

This is on the quite reasonable basis that if there is no corruption, then there is no corruption.

The integrity pledges are thus the building blocks of this change in attitudes and mindsets, having those involved make the firm commitment to combating corruption, of having zero tolerance for corruption, and of actually making a civil legal commitment to staying clear of corruption and combating corruption.

If nothing else, if they do take the wrong road and move into dishonesty, breaching that pledge will almost certainly involve longer sentences when convicted and higher damages when sued over dishonesty. 

Breaches will be seen as aggravating circumstances by magistrates and judges, and while not changing the law will see this dishonesty as grounds for more severe results of legal breaches.

The integrity campaign goes beyond individual pledges and individual commitment. Backing that up is the establishment of integrity committees across the whole public sector: in ministries, departments, agencies, parastatals and State-owned enterprises, with the private sector invited and encouraged to join in with their own.

We need to remember that generally speaking, a majority, in fact a clear majority, of people are honest and wish to be counted among the honest. 

But even in the worse and most sordid of environments, it only needs one honest person on an integrity committee to blast open corruption and dishonesty.

More commonly the pooled knowledge of procedures and the like will mean that dubious transactions, dubious actions, will be noted and can be pieced together by an active committee. 

So the potentially dishonest will know that, and will know that there are people who are committed to looking for dishonest actions.

The other major effect of the signing of integrity pledges is that this honest majority are engaged in a communal action, reinforcing and strengthening each other. This is the major switch in the way people act, that ZACC wants to see. 

There has been a tendency in the past for people to accept that corruption exists, and there is nothing really that they can do about it. The new idea is that everyone can do something about it, and can stop it and can bring it to an end. 

All that is required for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing. 

When they do something, they beat evil.

For a start we can all live decently, and so there is no corruption, but we can all also keep our eyes open, work on the integrity committees and generally take the action required to break corruption and cycles of corruption. 

We do not have to accept it as something that happens.

Since coming into office, the Second Republic has been providing the executive backing that the anti-corruption commission, the police, especially after its own internal reforms, and society need to effectively combat the menace. Investigations and prosecutions have been pushed harder, and there are people in jail or now living quietly after their eventual release, who can testify to that. 

In addition, a lot of effort, increasing effort, has been made in the civil actions to strip the corrupt of their gains. 

Here the proof is on probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt, so we can get the oddity of someone escaping conviction but still having the assets stripped away.

In one sense we are always just a pace or two away from dishonesty and crime. But in another sense we are strong enough to beat it, largely because of that sense of self-worth and other factors that so many have, and want to maintain. 

As they realise they are not alone, that they are in the midst of a large group who also want to live decent lives, and if they make mistakes to have those as honest mistakes, then the battle cascades into many more areas, and becomes the isolation of the dishonest rather than the honest feeling they are ineffective islands.

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