MABVUKU Tafara MP James Maridadi has blasted Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa for defending Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu his Information Communication Technology counterpart Supa Mandiwanzira in Parliament when he implicated them for alleged corruption during debate in the National Assembly.
Maridadi (JM), who is also chairperson of African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption (APNAC), said he is not afraid to ensure every corrupt bigwig is exposed. The following are excerpts of an interview between NewsDay senior Parliamentary reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) with Maridadi.
ND: You implicated Mpofu and Mandiwanzira in corruption cases, but Chinamasa came to their defence berating you in Parliament, that you must not accuse people of corruption when you do not have evidence. How did you feel about it?
JM: I feel that defending Mpofu and Mandiwanzira is not Chinamasa’s responsibility. If he wants to defend and represent them then he must go to the Advocates’ Chambers and do so, but he must not defend them in Parliament. He is a minister of Finance, and being a good lawyer that he is, he must defend them as an advocate, but not in Parliament.
ND: So what are you suggesting that Parliament must do to deal with bigwigs implicated in corruption?
JM: Parliament must be able to set up a commission of enquiry and investigate the issues because when we are debating as MPs and implicate a minister, we are not saying he is guilty of corruption. It is an allegation, but it must be presented before the courts who will decide if that person is guilty.
Parliament must set up a special committee to investigate and make a presentation during Parliament plenary. The police must also come in and investigate. I never said, for example, that the ICT minister is guilty, but I am saying that allegations laid on him by a senior former chief executive officer of NetOne (Reward Kangai) mean that these are serious allegations that need to be investigated and government must then make an effort to investigate. Ministers are tasked to run government and it is not a petty job. People are looking up to them and they need to work without specks of corruption on their eyes. They have a moral obligation to submit themselves to due process and clear their names.
ND: Chinamasa also went on to say that the $15 billion figure being thrown around as the amount of the missing diamonds is overstated. You were one of the MPs who blasted Chinamasa for his defence. Why?
JM: I do not know what has gotten into Chinamasa and why he is taking it upon himself to defend the indefensible. He must be exorcised of ghosts visiting him at night because people did not dream of that figure. It is a figure which was presented to us by former President Robert Mugabe. When Mugabe presented the figure Chinamasa failed to immediately say that it was a wrong figure, and so why is he doing it now? He is even failing to give us an alternative figure to account for the missing diamonds. We cannot allow that, he (Chinamasa) must bring the correct figure. If I had my way I would tell Chinamasa to do what is in his mandate and stop defending the indefensible.
ND: As APNAC chairperson, how far has the group gone in fighting graft in the country, and have MPs now declared their assets?
JM: MPs have not declared their assets; we are still working on how they can do it. However, we feel that it is imperative that they do so because government is also undertaking it. It is advisable that when MPs are sworn in for the Ninth session of Parliament, they also declare their assets. For MPs to declare their assets within these last six months of their term is tricky because some will say they might not come back to Parliament. APNAC is very vibrant and that is why I, as chairperson, am outspoken about corruption issues in Parliament. We will be advertising some of our programmes and will also be taking anti-corruption issues to schools and universities in awareness campaigns.
ND: Are there cases of electoral corruption that you are witnessing now?
JM: There is a lot of electoral corruption, which is actually criminal. For example, in Mabvuku and other constituencies there are people going around demanding serial numbers of voter registration slips. That is criminal. Food handouts are also being used to lure voters. For example, some MPs (ruling party) got rice to give to the vulnerable at their constituencies. The Epworth MP [Zalerah Makari, Zanu PF] got rice to give to the vulnerable in her constituency, but in Mabvuku Tafara there are lots of vulnerable persons yet, I did not get any rice. It is very selective and government programmes meant to assist the vulnerable must not be done in a partisan manner. Ninety percent (90%) of Zimbabweans are vulnerable and need assistance.
ND: You exposed corruption at border posts where blankets and other stuff were being smuggled by the Chinese without paying duty. Did government do anything about it?
JM: I did my investigations and presented evidence before Parliament and it was entirely upon Chinamasa to further investigate and deal with the issue. There are still a few shops of foreign nationals that are operating without the necessary documents.
ND: As an anti-corruption advocate, are you not afraid for your life?
JM: There is nothing to worry about, and I cannot be afraid to speak out because I emulate people like democracy activist Itai Dzamara who spoke out on behalf of the people and he was not scared. I will continue to fight because it took us 37 years of living in fear to restore order in this country. I am not scared.