Leonard Ncube in VICTORIA FALLS
THERE are no sacred cows in the fight against corruption and Zimbabweans must collectively play a part in building a transparent society, the President has said.
Officially opening the 20th Sadc Lawyers Association (Sadc-LA) annual conference and general meeting here, President Mnangagwa said his administration will stop at nothing to weed out corrupt individuals from public office.
On Thursday, the President sacked jailed Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Priscah Mupfumira, saying her conduct was not consistent with what is expected of a Government minister.
Mupfumira is facing a slew of criminal abuse of public office charges involving US$95 million of National Social Security Authority (NSSA) funds.
She also faces two fresh charges after the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) reportedly established that she was involved in money laundering and fraudulently ordering companies dealing with NSSA to transfer money into her personal bank account.
President Mnangagwa told the lawyers’ conference that corruption was a threat to the gains of Independence, hence the need to fight it in all sectors of the economy.
The President, a lawyer by profession, said the country needs strong institutions capable of ensuring access to affordable justice delivery as he exhorted the legal fraternity to partner Government in re-engagement and rebuilding the economy.
“Sadly, corruption being an antithesis of justice has left a stain on our post-independence legacy. As a result, too many opportunities have been squandered, lives ruined and our development potential stunted. We must now collectively return our country to an era of transparency and openness. Corruption and mismanagement in our institutions and systems cannot be whitewashed.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to reform and rebuild every facet of our society from the foundations up. The age of impunity must be behind us and my Government shall never shy away from doing the right thing. The bureaucratic bottlenecks and frustrating foot-dragging officials must be dealt with without fear or favour because officials do not only enrich themselves, but they also impoverish the majority,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said equally, bad crops in the judicial system must be weeded out as he promised Government support for national institutions in the execution of their mandate and putting the judicial system back on the high pedestal it belongs.
President Mnangagwa said the law should empower ordinary citizens by increasing their involvement in matters related to their affairs and protecting them from exploitation by corrupt individuals.
“Under the Second Republic, my administration recognises that weak institutions and restricted access to justice will deprive opportunities to our people and undermine the delivery of public services and economic development.
“Thus, my Government is accelerating efforts to consolidate constitutionalism, the rule of law as well as strengthening institutions that support democracy. We shall with greater resolve, protect constitutionally enshrined rights, fully cognisant, however, of the fact that the enjoyment of such rights is not absolute.”
He said legal practitioners have a role to play in nation-building.
The President said the need to balance an open economy and the rights of all citizens to access quality public services and economic development remains Government’s priority.
He challenged lawyers never to be aloof to issues related to international trade, finance and investment but to interrogate policy and use their skills to fight cross-border crimes and security threats.
The President said there was a strong political will among Sadc political leaders to entrench a democratic culture rooted in Africa’s need for sustainable socio-economic development.
“As Sadc member states, our ties are based not only on a common history but shared hopes and aspirations. These are anchored on a better and more prosperous tomorrow as we share a common destiny in the economic, political, legal, social, cultural and religious spheres,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said Government is committed to the doctrine of separation of powers and independence of the justice system and would always seek collaboration with various stakeholders, including the legal fraternity, towards the attainment of an upper middle income economy by 2030.
The theme for the conference, which ends tomorrow, is: “Supporting strong institutions for equal access to justice for all”.
President Mnangagwa said the theme resonated with the aspiration of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 which advocates unity, peace, justice and strong institutions, tenets he said were indispensable ingredients for a just and prosperous society.
He urged the legal fraternity to be transformative and work closely with governments within a goal of protecting vulnerable members of the society like women and children as abuse of such has no place in society.
“I exhort you legal professionals to go beyond ensuring the entrenchment of constitutionalism, rule of law and other democratic tenets within our respective jurisdictions. You must use the law to propel modernisation, industrialisation and integration of our economies.
“Our collective efforts must be towards ensuring legal frameworks that accelerate the elimination of poverty, mitigation of climate change, enhancement of food security and facilitation of quality medical healthcare and other social services,” President Mnangagwa said.