President Robert Mugabe has a unique opportunity today to show that he is serious about curbing corruption. That it is not just talk. He is walking the talk. Last week, The Herald reported that Health Minister David Parirenyatwa had been paid $100 000 by the cash-strapped Premier Service Medical Aid Society when he was owed only $23 000.
Parirenyatwa said the transaction was above board. He had been paid $77 000 for services not yet rendered under what he called capitation.
“It’s all above board. It is called capitation where a service provider can request an insurer to pay him more than what he is owed. This money would then be recovered through future claims to the insurer by the service provider. It is a common norm in the medical industry,” he told The Herald.
The Zimbabwe Medical Association, however, said this was not right because PSMAS had not paid some doctors for three years and owed $140 million. How then was it possible to advance its regulator?
In short, this was blatant corruption and Parirenyatwa must go if Mugabe is serious about curbing corruption which he listed as number nine in his 10-point plan to get the country’s economy back on track. Besides the money, one must ask: How does Parirenyatwa get time to attend to patients when he is a government minister? Isn’t this a full-time job?
Mugabe has to show that he is serious when his cabinet meets today, otherwise corruption will continue to get worse in the country.
One of the reasons why Mugabe has failed to curb corruption, according to Mutasa Central legislator Trevour Saruwaka, is that he rewards corrupt people with ministerial positions.
“The reason why corruption is flourishing in this country is because there has not been any action taken by the President of this country to stop corruption,” Saruwaka told Parliament.
“What we have seen is corrupt people being rewarded with ministerial positions. I will use the example of the divorce case between hon. Minister Chombo and he can come and defend himself. When his case was in the courts, he had more than 80 stands and he was the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
“How does one acquire so many stands in a country with thousands on the waiting lists? We have people who have been on the waiting list for more than ten years yet one person who is correctly positioned in the corruption machinery has more than 80 stands to his name.
“What do we see? When there is a reshuffle, that individual is given the position of Minister of Home Affairs to deal with the police and we think that that is a way to fight corruption – by putting the thief to guard the granary. I think that we must be more serious.”
A member of Mugabe’s own party, Jennifer Mhlanga, said corruption was rampant because it had been politicised. When one tries to raise the issue one is accused of belonging to the “wrong side”.
This is exactly the case with Parirenyatwa’s misconduct. Parirenyatwa is said to have belonged to expelled former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s faction, but was spared. Firing him could therefore be viewed as part of the purge on Mujuru loyalists. But the question is: Can the country continue to be held to ransom for political expediency?
Parirenyatwa is definitely not the only corrupt minister. But Mugabe has to start with someone. If he does not act now, then when?
As Mhlanga said: “It is a well known fact that our officers in government entities have become predatory as bribes are the norm, fraudulent activities, extortion, intimidation, high profile scandals, financial irregularities, misuse of capital, investment in poor unprofitable projects, accepting of gifts and abuse of public property especially in local authorities, all these things have become a scourge. They are eating on the very fabric of our society.
“We want to conduct business in a clear and widely understood philosophy so that we remove these bad elements and practices from our system. We need to enforce values and norms by putting penalties for those people who divert from the norm. We need to punish or remove those people from key positions if found guilty. We must also be exemplary and walk the talk.”