Where did Zimbabwe's Anti-Corruption Commission get its teeth?

Zimbabwe is often viewed – and certainly reported – as a country in which things are pretty black and white. But every now and then something happens that makes everyone wonder what is going on. Like this week’s decision by the High Court to give the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) the authority to search the offices of three very powerful ministers from President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party in connection with the biggest scandal in recent Zimbabwean history.

Richard Lee's picture

Author

Strategic communications for WWF

March 15th, 2013

Zimbabwe is often viewed – and certainly reported – as a country in which things are pretty black and white. But every now and then something happens that makes everyone wonder what is going on. Like this week’s decision by the High Court to give the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) the authority to search the offices of three very powerful ministers from President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party in connection with the biggest scandal in recent Zimbabwean history.

Now as everyone knows – ZANU big-wigs are never investigated; the court system is hopelessly partisan; and critical institutions like ZACC are toothless. Except in this instance the very opposite appears to be the case. Which has left everyone desperately searching for some rhyme or reason in this stunningly important development.

The key question is where did ZACC’s sharp new teeth suddenly appear from? Because the commission is not biting at the heels of just anyone for just anything – it is targeting Ministers Savior Kasukuwere, Nickolas Goche and Obert Mpofu for their alleged involvement in a murky US$1billion deal involving the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB), which is commonly referred to as the ‘Nieebgate’ scandal.

So is this move simply the result of efficient and more courageous leadership at the institution? Or did ZACC get a green light from ZANU PF in a bid to ‘cleanse’ itself before the elections (Mugabe did say the indigenisation deal had been fraught with errors during his birthday bash)? Or is it an indication that the MDC has begun to reform the state from the inside by making key state institutions function better?

No one has the answer to this question right now. But what is clear is that the playing field has shifted dramatically. Whatever the outcome, ZACC’s investigation has undermined the notion that every high level ZANU official is ‘untouchable’. And it has provided Zimbabweans with an idea of what a genuine transition could accomplish – a far more colourful future where fully functioning state institutions hold those in power accountable to the people.

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