President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decree that Cabinet ministers and senior central and local government officials must declare their assets by end of February has been hailed as noble, but analysts say members of the presidium should be the first to open their finances up to public scrutiny.
Misheck Sibanda, chief secretary to the president and Cabinet, said in a statement that it was now mandatory for Cabinet ministers, their deputies and permanent secretaries, senior principal directors, board chairpersons and chief executives of parastatals, among others to declare their assets by February 28.
Among the assets to be documented and submitted in sealed envelopes, are immovable properties owned by the official or those in which he or she has an interest.
“Any item of movable property exceeding $100 000 in value owned or leased by the individual concerned or in which he or she has interest and any business in which the individual has an interest in or in which he or she plays a part in running.
“The nature of the interest in the property or business concerned should be clearly stated,” reads part of the statement.
“Heads of ministries are hereby directed to coordinate the collection, and submission of all declarations in respect of designated grades within their ministries, as well as public entities and constitutional bodies under their purview.
“The president expects the full and urgent cooperation of all the affected office bearers,” Sibanda said.
Sibanda said the directive was in line with the new thrust of good governance.
Critics said instead of lodging the details with the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), details of their assets and income must be uploaded to a publicly searchable database to boost transparency and will represent a show of good faith that officials are willing to open their finances up to public scrutiny, to be held accountable, and to move away from a culture that tacitly allowed bureaucrats to amass wealth through cronyism and graft.
Researcher and human rights advocate Dewa Mavhinga said the declarations needed to be made public if it were to carry meaning in the minds of citizens.
“Disclosure is best when public, preferably via Parliament, and not in sealed envelopes,” he wrote on Twitter.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti said Mnangagwa, who is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, the first time by a Zimbabwean president, must show his holdings first.
“Let’s start with him,” Biti told the Daily News yesterday.
Untested claims suggest Mnangagwa is a major player in the $1,5bn fuel industry in Zimbabwe.
University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political scientist Eldred Masunungure called for a full disclosure to the public on how much Mnangagwa and his two deputies Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi were worth and how they acquired the wealth.
“They should be the first to declare their wealth,” the UZ lecturer said.
The Zimbabwe chapter of the global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) said without a framework to give the directive legal legs to stand on, the call is an exercise in futility
“It’s an order and at the moment it is like an internal communication. We now need to have a force of law to back it up. It’s either it has to be included in a work contract or a code of conduct or a statutory instrument,” TI Zimbabwe chapter executive director Mary-Jane Ncube told the Daily News.
“For it to have force and effect, it must be legalised and address what happens when someone doesn’t comply. There should also be a framework to monitor and evaluate if it will have an effect and change in behaviour.
“The legal framework should address to what degree these assets are covered, is it just their assets, does it cover assets under the spouses or partners or under which and children, what age? These should be addressed because we know they register assets under their children.”
Masunungure said the fact that the declaration is being done in sealed envelopes does not really matter.
“What is of concern to citizens is what happens when the declaration envelops have been opened. Will there be public disclosure of the declarations to say minister is worth this much and he acquired that through business X and Y?” he asked rhetorically.
“These issues can be very sensitive and messy so it would be expected that the president takes the lead.
“He should set the ball rolling and declare his assets before the deadline he set for others. His deputies must also do the same and it should be done publicly.
“I am also concerned that the call to declare assets seems to exclude the country’s security service leaders in the police, the military, the central intelligence organisation and prisons.
“They should also declare their assets especially in the wake of allegations doing rounds that the police in particular are corrupt, otherwise the whole exercise will be seen as a pre-election gimmick which will see bigwigs go back to their old ways soon after the polls.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme was sceptical about Mnangagwa’s sincerity in ensuring public accountability, describing government’s move as electioneering ahead of elections scheduled for July.
“It’s meant to create a perception that this is a new regime among the uninformed and those that do not pay attention. So far, this regime’s approach to endemic corruption is uninspiring and horribly fictionally partisan.
“You don’t deal with endemic corruption by cherry picking piecemeal and un-integrated measures from development or ethics books. Instead you need to clearly have a proper anti-corruption drive that has clear targets, mechanisms for implementation and goals on reforming police, legislature, the judiciary and laws among other things,” Saungweme said.
“If Mnangagwa was serious, he should have led by example by declaring not only his wealth but also its source. Then his deputies and ministers do the same before going
to the bureaucracy.
“People need to know where the diamonds’ $15 billion is. People need to know how much Obert Mpofu is worth and the source of that wealth.”
Businessman Shingi Munyeza, however, said Mnangagwa was moving in the right direction.
“Barely a month when I raised this matter, we now have it being implemented. Well done Mr President…. for now I applaud the move to be in the right direction,” Munyeza wrote on his Twitter account.
Rich Zimbabweans are thought to have more than $600 million in undeclared overseas assets. Under Mnangagwa’s amnesty programme, they have until February 28 to return
illegally externalised funds with no risk of prosecution for those involved.
Experts blame the loss of confidence in the country’s tottering economy which has seen the elite, in particular, preferring to keep their earnings in safe havens in
contravention of the law.