EDITORIAL COMMENT: Kudos to President Mnangagwa for bold, decisive leadership

The Chronicle

GOVERNMENT’s anti-corruption drive has claimed its first big scalp after President Mnangagwa sacked incarcerated Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Priscah Mupfumira, who is facing a slew of criminal abuse of public office charges involving US$95 million of National Social Security Authority (NSSA) funds. 

Mupfumira, who also faces fresh charges after the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission reportedly established that she was involved in money laundering and fraudulently ordering companies dealing with NSSA to transfer money into her personal bank account, was fired for conduct not in line with what is expected from a Government Minister. 

In a letter to Mupfumira on Thursday, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said: “Please be advised that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde ED Mnangagwa, has in terms of section 340, subsection (i), paragraph (f), as read with section 104, subsection (i) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe removed you, Priscah Mupfumira, from the office of Cabinet Minister and Minister of Government with immediate effect for conduct inappropriate for a Government minister.” 

Her dismissal shows President Mnangagwa’s sincerity and ruthlessness in dealing with allegations of corruption as he has been preaching zero-tolerance towards graft in the Second Republic. The move also puts paid to murmurs from sections of the media and the opposition that the anti-corruption drive was a gimmick and politically motivated. 

Following Mupfumira’s arrest and the release of the NSSA forensic audit report, Zimbabweans have been outraged at the extent of the looting of funds at NSSA a body charged with managing pensions. What is staggering and galling is the impunity with which officials dipped their hands into NSSA coffers without due regard for the welfare of pensioners most of whom are on the verge of destitution. 

While NSSA management, the board and Government officials with oversight over the entity were living lavish lifestyles on the back of ill-gotten gains, pensioners were earning paltry amounts which could hardly assist them get by. We are aware that the full extent of the rot at NSSA is yet to be laid bare, with the arrest of Mupfumira expected to open a can of worms. 

Reports of champagne lifestyles, expensive holidays, overseas homes and other luxuries have surfaced and we expect ZACC to be exhaustive in their investigations as they pry into the intricate of web of conspirators who connived to loot NSSA. It is immoral, heartless and downright cruel to accumulate obscene wealth on the back of fleecing a social safety net meant to cater for the elderly in their twilight years. 

We therefore shed no tear for all those who are implicated in the industrial scale looting of NSSA and pray they have their comeuppance. Their arrest and prosecution should send a loud and clear message to the nation that the fight against corruption is real. We also call on ZACC to make good on its promise to follow up on the Auditor General’s report and investigate some of its findings. 

The report contains shocking cases of maladministration, incompetence, fraud and corruption within parastatals, Government ministries, quasi-Government entities and some local authorities. We aver that the report was thorough and provides useful leads which ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda Moyo and her team can use to bring the perpetrators to book. By its nature, white collar crime is complicated and requires painstaking investigations to secure a conviction. 

ZACC investigators need to be thorough and meticulous, ensuring that they comb every aspect of their cases to leave no stone unturned. Solid and watertight cases take time to conclude and investigators need not rush as the risk of presenting half-baked cases with no chance of succeeding in court is real. 

In this regard, we call on the public to co-operate with ZACC investigators and provide any information which might assist to nab culprits engaged in corruption. In the same vein, Government needs to capacitate the anti-corruption buster by availing the latest technology, investigative techniques and even high tech training to assist them to secure convictions. 

The fight against corruption is a collective effort and should involve every Zimbabwean. There should be a buy in from the public for it to succeed. A new culture of honesty and hard work should be inculcated into the psyche of the citizens of this country. 

We applaud President Mnangagwa for his bold and loud statement of intent in allowing the arrest of a serving Cabinet Minister and subsequently sacking her when it became untenable for her to continue in her role in Government. That is the hallmark of good leadership. 

By firing Mupfumira, President Mnangagwa is saying to his team, there are no sacred cows. You could be next. His colleagues in the ruling Zanu-PF party should also have been put on notice. 

The public expects servant leadership. The vision of an upper middle income economy by 2030 will not be achieved with a corrupt leadership, a corrupt bureaucracy or a corrupt Cabinet. Let’s all play our part in the fight against corruption.