Chamisa says corruption is now a religion in Zimbabwe


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Movement for Democratic Change organising secretary and Kuwadzana East Member of Parliament Nelson Chamisa says corruption has become a religion in Zimbabwe. It is worshiped. It is praised and it is celebrated.

It has become so endemic that it will not end until some big fish are fired from government or sent to prison.

“The buck stops with the top and the top is very clear, they have to account. In other jurisdictions like I indicated, governments actually have to resign. Individuals and ministers have to resign. In this country you would have the kind of corruption you are having but there will be no resignation.

“It is very important to make sure that when we have such circumstances, the nation must shake. How does a nation shake? The nation shakes by making sure that those who are corrupt at the top are dealt with, to the extent that we are not going to have ministers accounting or the most senior officers in Government accounting, then this fight against corruption is just going to be something that is taken as putting mascara on a frog or putting lipstick on a frog,” he said.

“Having grown up in Masvingo, I was very ably educated to understand that the fish rots from the top; to understand that there is no way you are going to have a fish rotting from the tail. There is no way you are going to correct the rotting of the fish by trying to focus on the tail. We have to make sure that we deal with the problem head-on. The only way we are going to deal with the problem head-on hon. Speaker Sir, is when we begin to see big fish fried.

“What we are seeing now is, we see a carpenter being caught but the big fish are still swimming in the sea of corruption. We want to see heads rolling,” he said.

Chamisa said right now corruption was being celebrated because the culprits were getting away with it.

“In other jurisdictions that are mature in their democracy and accountability, when there is a problem in a ministry it must be the top most person in that ministry who must face the music. When there is a problem in a particular department, it must be the minister of that department who must account.

“What do we find in Zimbabwe? Each time we have problems, we have few individuals at the lower level who are then forced to fry. Where are the others who are supposed to account for this?

“Under normal circumstances, you would have the big fish punished. You would have the big sharks in the sea being punished; you would have the crocodiles in the sea being punished. But, you find that when you are in Zimbabwe, those who are corrupt are not punished at all.”

 

Full contribution:

 

MR. CHAMISA: Thank you hon. Speaker Sir. I rise to also contribute on this very important national debate on the aspect of corruption. I want to thank the movers of this very important motion, particularly on the context of our country having been ranked no. 157 out of 173 in 2012, of the most corrupt countries in the whole world.

True to that ranking, we have witnessed endemic corruption not only in the corridors of Government, but also in the corridors of our communities, and in the corridors of the various sectors of our society. That corruption is obviously symptomatic and reflective of the problems that are at the top.

Having grown up in Masvingo, I was very ably educated to understand that the fish rots from the top; to understand that there is no way you are going to have a fish rotting from the tail. There is no way you are going to correct the rotting of the fish by trying to focus on the tail. We have to make sure that we deal with the problem head-on. The only way we are going to deal with the problem head-on hon. Speaker Sir, is when we begin to see big fish fried.

What we are seeing now is, we see a carpenter being caught but the big fish are still swimming in the sea of corruption – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear] – We want to see heads rolling. I once asked my brother the esteemed Hon. Mnangagwa, why is it that when someone is appointed a Minister, they suddenly grow big? -[HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear] –

We have a few exceptions. I am one of the very few exceptions of those who were not corrupt.

MR. HOLDER: On a point of order. Can the hon. member please explain by what he means by the term ‘big fish’ because we are not… -[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-

MR. SPEAKER: Order, Order! I think the Hon. Chamisa was in the process of explaining what he meant by big fish and small fish like himself.

MR. CHAMISA: Thank you hon. Speaker Sir. In Government you have various layers. In other jurisdictions that are mature in their democracy and accountability, when there is a problem in a Ministry it must be the top most person in that Ministry who must face the music. When there is a problem in a particular department, it must be the Minister of that department who must account. What do we find in Zimbabwe? Each time we have problems, we have few individuals at the lower level who are then forced to fry. Where are the others who are supposed to account for this?

Under normal circumstances, you would have the big fish punished. You would have the big sharks in the sea being punished; you would have the crocodiles in the sea being punished. But, you find that when you are in Zimbabwe, those who are corrupt are not punished at all. You have a few individuals who have not seen Ministers’ heads rolling. Under these circumstances, it is actually a travesty of justice to have a Government were you have not had Ministers past and present not accounting for the kind of excesses we have seen.

We need to, including myself; we have to account to the people. People have to be told where their money went. It does not convince me Mr. Speaker Sir, that something like a salary would be given such huge amounts without the Government not knowing. If the Government does not know, what will they know? – [AN HON. MEMBER: You were in Government] –

I was in Government but the Government is bigger. I understand Mr. Gumbo. Let me help you my brother, I have been in Government – I can help you better. So hang on!

Government works in a particular way and we need accountability by the Government. How can we have accountability by the Government? It has to go to the top most men. We are talking about Ministers being accountable and we are talking about the President being accountable.

We have to begin to see people taken to the prison to make sure that there is indeed, the truce of how we want to pursue this matter. VaMasimirembwa – the issue was said, kuti there is an issue on vamaSimirembwa which was said kuti iri mu public domain. Of course, I know that there were investigations. But, you cannot tell me that it is possible to have such high salaries, such kick backs and high deals being done without Government knowing. What we would want to see, even this whole thing of putting a cap on the salaries, I think it is too late.

In any case, yes, it is a decision too little and too late. This was supposed to be done long back. We are not supposed to reduce our parastatals into feeding troughs of those who are in Government. You find that Ministers actually go on to enjoy from those parastatals. Thank God, when I was in charge of a ministry, I did not have any parastatals to – but I would see other colleagues – [Laughter.] –that they were enjoying.

What they were enjoying, I did not know and I still do not know but it is clear that enjoying and benefitting is the character of our Government. The issue of getting trinkets and trophies is what has caused fundamental problems in our country. It does not make sense that a country so endowed with resources is so poor. We are so rich but so poor. We are so full of resources but nothing to show for it. Our roads, schools, Parliament and our people complain, yet we have a lot of resources.

There is something that is fundamentally wrong. What is wrong is the corrupt system that we have. Corruption is not something that we just see at the end. It also begins with issues of how you even manage your national systems and processes. The way we conduct our elections is so fundamental, as an aspect of good governance because once you have disputed elections, you are likely to then have a disputed Government which will then have disputed policies, which will then have a disputed integrity and this is what we are beginning to see. It is a chain of disputation and contestation, and the reason why it is a chain of contestation is because there is something that is fundamentally wrong at the centre of our governance.

When we defeated the white colonialists in Rhodesia, the defeat was not just a defeat of skin colour, it was a defeat of the system. We fought Smith because he was corrupt. We fought Smith because he was doing certain things untoward – and our own black brothers and sisters were not allowed in certain bars. That is the reason why we fought them and the reason why we should continue to fight the ugly head of corruption is because we are now perpetuating the regime of Smith but in black skin.

We are continuing the same murky – nebulous and foggy politics where there is no administration. What kills and cures the issue of corruption is openness. Government must be open. Our Government is too secretive. Nobody knows what happens next door. The only thing we hear is just the noise of eating. Hardly do people know what is happening in Parliament. Hardly do people know what is earned by Ministers, it must be common knowledge because it is taxpayer’s money.

It is only this Government where you have the taxpayer not knowing what is earned by the one who is benefitting from the taxpayer. It is only in this Government, where you have the employer not knowing what they are paying their employee, yet the employee is the master.

They do not tell people what they earn. You go to the State Procurement Board, there is no accountability there. It is because you continue to have a murky system. Bacteria thrives in circumstances of darkness. Bacteria thrives in circumstances of warmth and this Government’s circumstance of warmth and darkness seem to be provided in plenty.

Mr. Speaker Sir, this is a very important debate. It is an important debate because it defines our character as a people. It is an important debate because it pervades the very fabric of our society. This kind of corruption you are seeing, is manifesting itself even at the national broadcaster, for example, by the admission of Government within ZBC, they are supposed to be the ones that then provide solutions to this nation by making sure that they go and deal with all the people who are corrupt.

Circumstances of lack are created so that people are in desperate circumstances. I feel sorry for our teachers, police force and our important institutions; our nurses are in difficult circumstances. The reason why we have these problems is because Government itself is not accountable to the people. This lack of accountability is what then breeds corruption because you then find that those people have circumstances that are very difficult for them to survive and then they do certain things. But they also learn from the top. They see what happens at the top. It is fashionable to cut corners and they also cut corners. If it is fashionable to be corrupt, they will also be corrupt.

In fact, corruption has become a religion in this country. It is worshipped. It is praised because there is mastering of that corruption within the corridors of Government. The buck stops with the top and the top is very clear, they have to account. In other jurisdictions like I indicated, governments actually have to resign. Individuals and ministers have to resign. In this country you would have the kind of corruption you are having but there will be no resignation.

It is very important to make sure that when we have such circumstances, the nation must shake. How does a nation shake? The nation shakes by making sure that those who are corrupt at the top are dealt with, to the extent that we are not going to have ministers accounting or the most senior officers in Government accounting, then this fight against corruption is just going to be something that is taken as putting mascara on a frog or putting lipstick on a frog.

We need to make sure that we get to the bottom of this matter by respecting our Constitution, making sure that we have ethics and values. All Members of Parliament and Ministers are supposed to actually be bound by an accountability code so that we are able to have the highest levels of accountability in the way we do things. It was done in Kenya.

They have done so much to improve their situation. In our own situation, you find that corruption becomes almost a celebrated phenomenon. We are only able to deal with this issue of corruption by making sure that there is openness in Government, we deal with corruption at the top and that we do not corrupt our systems that produce national processes and outcomes.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I want to say the idea of putting up a committee is a brilliant idea. We all have to support it. This is not a ZANU PF issue or an MDC issue, it is a national issue. We all have to combine our efforts on this matter. Corruption knows no party. Corruption is a bigger problem that we have to deal with. It is a hydra whose jaws are actually sapping our energies as a people and we need to go to the root of corruption. The best way to deal with corruption is to get a few big and fatty cats behind bars for them to account why they were feeding from the resources of the people when the people are suffering. – [HON MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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