The Chairman of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and all his Commissioners have resigned. This paves way for the appointment of a new Commission by the President. For many years, Zimbabwe, like many African countries, has been plagued by rampant corruption. Poor law enforcement, unresponsive political systems, limited press freedom and weak structures to deal with corruption have been identified as chief enablers of corruption in many countries.

Mass resignations

In a press statement dated 31st January 2019, the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Micheck Sibanda advised that the President had accepted the resignation of the ZACC Chairman, Dr Whabira. “Furthermore, His Excellency the President accepts the resignations of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioners with effect from 31 January 2019. All the Commissioners have gone on leave pending the finalization of their terminal benefits,“ read part of the statement. Speculation is rife though, that the Commission might as well have been forced to resign due to poor performance and failure to execute their mandate. The President has hinted that he is not happy with ZACC before. Many think that putting ZACC to work in the office of the President was a way to try and keep an eye on them.

Corruption Perceptions Index

Numbers don’t lie. In order to understand how we are doing in terms of fighting corruption, we need to look at the world corruption index. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of 0 to 100 where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is transparent. For 2018, Zimbabwe scored only 22 out of 100. This puts us at position 160 out of 180. It is worrisome that we are ranked in the same league with conflict countries like the DRC (161), Iraq (168) and South Sudan (178). The Seychelles and Botswana are among the least corrupt countries in Africa. In Zimbabwe, the courts of law, police, tax and immigration departments are some of the institutes perceived to be most corrupt. Many had hoped that the new political administration after former President Robert Mugabe would introduce the necessary reforms to curtail corruption once and for all. Unfortunately, we have scored 22 out of 100 since as far back as 2015. If anything, corruption is worsening if we look at country rankings.

A new ZACC

The next step is for the President to appoint a new Chairman and request for nominations from the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders for appointment of new Commissioners. The outgoing ZACC had been widely criticised for being weak and ineffective. Others went as far as accusing some Commissioners of being corrupt. In addition, the fact that they were working in the Presidents Office is believed to have compromised their independence. In a country where corruption figures are high, it is surprising that only a handful of corruption cases have ever seen the light of day. Several high profiles cases involving prominent figures like Wicknell Chivhayo and a number of Ministers and former Ministers have all fizzled out. The new ZACC should not be another toothless bulldog if we are to see decisive steps towards eradicating corruption.

Everyone hopes that the new ZACC will signal a turnaround for the country. Corruption hurts the ease of doing business more than anything else. And, this is not the time to do that. We need to attract investors rather than scare them off.