By Prince Kurupati*
Zimbabwe’s new leadership is continuing in its drive to restore confidence in the public sector. This time the government of Zimbabwe issued an ultimatum for declaration of assets to senior civil servants. The ultimatum ends on the 28th of February 2018.
Dr. Misheck Sibanda, the Chief Secretary to the President and the Cabinet announced the news on January 23. He said that the directive targets mostly government ministers, their deputies, senior principal directors, permanent secretaries, board chairpersons and board members of parastatals and state enterprises, chief executive officers of local authorities, chairpersons and members of both executive and independent commissions, and chief executive officers of state enterprises.
The aforementioned are supposed to hand in written declarations of their assets to the Heads of Ministries by no later than 28 February. In their declarations, Dr. Sibanda said that they need to give details of all the immovable property they own or have an interest in with a value exceeding $100 000, this includes properties leased. The officials are also required to state any businesses they own, run or they have an interest in.
Dr. Sibanda said this is in line with the President’s vision of “creating a responsible, transparent, and accountable public service workforce that is sworn to high moral standards and deserved rewards.”
Crackdown on corruption or just electioneering
The move taken by the President is a bold but necessary one. On one hand, we can say that it is in line with his views on stamping down hard on corruption. When the President appointed his Cabinet, many thought that he had deviated from his inauguration speech in which he said, “Acts of corruption must stop forthwith… we have to aspire to be a clean nation, one sworn to high moral standards and deserved rewards.”
By appointing individuals who many claims were involved in corrupt activities in the Mugabe era, many saw the new leadership as more or less a resemblance to the ‘new wine in old bottles’. This was further compounded by the fact that those who were arrested on corruption charges stemming from years of mismanagement in the Mugabe era all entered into the pattern of ‘arrest and release’ without any one of them being convicted.
However, the new directive, if enforced, will serve two crucial purposes in that it will herald Mnangagwa as indeed someone fighting hard for ending corruption. It will also distance him from those who say he is targeting only those who were not on his side during the factional fights with a group (G40) aligned to the former first lady, Grace Mugabe before the military intervention.
Many Zimbabweans anxiously wait to see who owns what when the senior officials submit their declaration of assets that is if they are made public. We have already seen with the externalization ultimatum that the government may withhold information but if Mnangagwa wants the public’s confidence especially at this moment as the country prepares for elections, then he has to make the declarations public.
Some, however, have already started arguing that this is just a symbolic gesture by the President to gain much needed political scores as we are just four or five months away from elections.
The decision to make asset declaration classified or public after 28 February will determine if the President is cracking down on corruption or if it’s just another electioneering gimmick.