Central bank governor Gideon Gono has done a tremendous job in exposing the rot that was bedevilling the country. But it is high time the government instituted a full-fledged commission of inquiry to look into corruption, externalisation of funds, illegally trading in foreign currency and other malpractices because this affected the entire economy and not just the financial sector.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce President Luxon Zembe said such a commission should be headed by a High Court judge and should be composed of members who are of good standing. “This should be a commission that will be perceived by the public to be fair, impartial and transparent. Its mandate should be to come up with a report that will be published as it is and will not be censored by the authorities,” he said.
There has been wide speculation that President Robert Mugabe might declare an amnesty for all those involved in the malpractices as the country marks its 24th anniversary because of calls for a moratorium.
Zembe said the best way forward would be to set up a commission of inquiry which would hold open public hearings like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission did. This way, nobody would feel they were being victimised. He said it would have to be made abundantly clear that those who came forward voluntarily would receive full amnesty. There would be no retribution after they had given their evidence. But those who did not come forward would face the full wrath of the law if they were subsequently caught and convicted.
“What we want is a clean up process that will be rehabilitative. It should not be perceived otherwise because we need to preserve our nationhood,” Zembe said.
Asked how such a commission would be established since President Robert Mugabe appoints all commissions and there could be fears that he would protect some people especially senior members of his party or cabinet, Zembe said: “Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe, and not just ZANU-PF. He should rise above party politics and should do what is in the interests of the nation and not particular groups.”
On suggestions that Gono has already done enough and should therefore call a moratorium, Zembe said it was more important to clean up rather than put a lid. If a moratorium was called now, those who had been exposed and those who had fled the country might misconstrue the clampdown as victmisation. “We don’t want things to be swept under the carpet. If we deal with only a few people, it might be misconstrued as victimisation. Everyone was doing it because the government had created conditions that criminalised all Zimbabweans,” Zembe said.
“There is no sector that was spared. The conditions that had been created forced people to go into survival mode. We want to know what happened even to those who took over farms with exportable crops such as flowers, fruit and sugar. We want to know what they did with the export proceeds. Where is the money?” Zembe asked.
Another political observer said there should be no moratorium at the moment because people had not come forward. “If it is true that more than a billion dollars (US$1 billion) was externalised, then we want to know what happened to that money. People have not come forward to tell us how they are going to get that money back into the country, so there should be no moratorium,” he said.
The chairman of the National Investment Trust, Muthuli Ncube, one of those allegedly on the run for externalising funds, last year said about US$1 billion had been externalised.
Zimbabwe could do a lot with US$1billion. It could fund all oil imports and pay its entire arrears to the International Monetary fund and still remain with US$310 million which could be ploughed onto the auction market for the productive sector which is currently being crowded out by oil importers.
Bulawayo-based consultant Eric Bloch said if a moratorium were called there should be a clear distinction between those who illegally changed their money on the black market to keep their operations going and who extrernalised funds for personal gain.
“If we are going to prosecute those who were trading foreign currency on the black market, everyone should be brought before the law because parastatals where the biggest culprits when it came to sourcing money from the parallel market,” he said. “The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM), Air Zimbabwe, The National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) accounted for about 70 percent of the money that was bought on the black market. So if companies and individuals are going to be prosecuted, they should not be spared.”
He said those who externalised funds had to face the wrath of the law.
A number of bank directors and executives have fled the country for externalising funds. Three financial institutions are to appear in court soon also for externalising funds.
As for individuals, the most celebrated case is that of Harare businessman and ZANU-PF central committee member James Makamba who has been in custody since February 9 for externalising funds.
Directors of ZANU-PF companies are also reported to have fled to Britain when the party instituted investigations into externalisation of funds by party companies. This followed revelations that one of the companies in which ZANU-PF has a shareholding, Treger, had been involved in rampant externalisation of funds.