Succession And Economic Challenges Lead To Anti-Corruption Drive

BMI View: A spate of revelations about corruption and mismanagement at Zimbabwean state-owned enterprises by state media has been applauded, but has also raised the ire of the general public, given the magnitude of some of the figures involved. Questions have been raised about why this problem, which has more or less been public knowledge for some time, is being publicly aired now. While an attempt to free up fiscal resources is probably a factor, it also appears that a battle to succeed ageing President Robert Mugabe at the helm of the ZANU-PF party is playing a part.

In early 2014 Zimbabwean traditional and social media was abuzz with revelations, published in the state-run Herald newspaper, about corruption and impropriety at the country's parastatal firms and local government authorities. In particular, the exorbitant salaries paid to senior executives - some of whom have been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars on a monthly basis - have raised the ire of the general public. In most cases, the entities in question are struggling to carry out basic operations and lower ranking employees often go unpaid.

The revelations are a continuation of a trend started by President Robert Mugabe at his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's (ZANU-PF) annual conference in December 2012, when he spoke out strongly against corruption. At a dinner following the opening of parliament on September 17 2013, Mugabe then took the unusual step of directly accusing members of his party of corruption, demanding that action be taken. Mugabe accused the chairman of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Godwills Masimirembwa, who unsuccessfully ran for parliament on a ZANU-PF ticket in the 2013 election, of accepting a US$6mn bribe from Ghanaian investors. There was hope that the singling out of ZMDC officials was the start of a concerted effort to address the rampant corruption that pervades almost all levels of government. Although there has been little further detail on the progress of the case against Masimirembwa, the latest developments give further credence to the idea that the Mugabe regime is taking action against corruption.

Dominant ZANU-PF Grappling With Economic Challenges
Zimbabwe - Parliamentary Election Results, % of seats (LHS) & Presidential Election Result, % of votes (RHS)

BMI View: A spate of revelations about corruption and mismanagement at Zimbabwean state-owned enterprises by state media has been applauded, but has also raised the ire of the general public, given the magnitude of some of the figures involved. Questions have been raised about why this problem, which has more or less been public knowledge for some time, is being publicly aired now. While an attempt to free up fiscal resources is probably a factor, it also appears that a battle to succeed ageing President Robert Mugabe at the helm of the ZANU-PF party is playing a part.

In early 2014 Zimbabwean traditional and social media was abuzz with revelations, published in the state-run Herald newspaper, about corruption and impropriety at the country's parastatal firms and local government authorities. In particular, the exorbitant salaries paid to senior executives - some of whom have been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars on a monthly basis - have raised the ire of the general public. In most cases, the entities in question are struggling to carry out basic operations and lower ranking employees often go unpaid.

The revelations are a continuation of a trend started by President Robert Mugabe at his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's (ZANU-PF) annual conference in December 2012, when he spoke out strongly against corruption. At a dinner following the opening of parliament on September 17 2013, Mugabe then took the unusual step of directly accusing members of his party of corruption, demanding that action be taken. Mugabe accused the chairman of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Godwills Masimirembwa, who unsuccessfully ran for parliament on a ZANU-PF ticket in the 2013 election, of accepting a US$6mn bribe from Ghanaian investors. There was hope that the singling out of ZMDC officials was the start of a concerted effort to address the rampant corruption that pervades almost all levels of government. Although there has been little further detail on the progress of the case against Masimirembwa, the latest developments give further credence to the idea that the Mugabe regime is taking action against corruption.

Why Now?

The magnitude of the salaries of senior executives at state firms has come as shock to most Zimbabweans, but the problems of malfeasance and inefficiency have been public knowledge for some time. The decision to publish details now, in a government newspaper no less, has raised questions about motivation. The revelations come at a time when Mugabe's government is facing severe fiscal constraints ( see 'Budget: Initial Thoughts' from December 30 2013) and is struggling to prime an economy starved of liquidity due to insufficient external account inflows. The decision to go public is therefore likely motivated, at least in part, by a desire to free up fiscal resources. It is also possible that the drive is being undertaken as part of an effort to shore up Mugabe's legacy with the 90-year old leader inevitably approaching the end of his three-decade rule.

Dominant ZANU-PF Grappling With Economic Challenges
Zimbabwe - Parliamentary Election Results, % of seats (LHS) & Presidential Election Result, % of votes (RHS)

There also appears to be evidence that the anti-corruption drive is tied to the battle to succeed Mugabe as leader of ZANU-PF. Local press was reporting on February 10 that Vice President Joice Mujuru, allegedly one of those vying for the leadership of the party, used a speech at a party women's conference to criticize the media for exposing the excesses of the parastatals and local governments. In her speech, Mujuru accused ZANU-PF insiders, who she claims are bent on destabilising the party and the nation, of being behind the revelations. Although she did not name him, her tirade appeared to be aimed at Information Minister Jonathon Moyo, who has been a major proponent of the media's anti-corruption campaign. Moyo was expelled from ZANU-PF in 2005 owing to his alleged involvement in a plot to block Mujuru's ascendancy to the vice presidency. He was readmitted to the party in 2009 and was appointed to the information ministry despite having lost his parliamentary seat to the opposition at the July 2013 election.

Known Unknowns In Succession Battle

The opacity of the succession story makes it difficult to know what is really going on behind the scenes. Given Mugabe's stranglehold of ZANU-PF, there is no open discussion amongst party members about the issue and none of the supposed aspirants to the presidency have publicly admitted any leadership ambition. However, conventional thinking is that Mujuru's main rival is Justice Minister Emerson Mnangagwa (to whom Moyo has been linked). The Mujuru faction appeared to score a major victory when figures supposedly loyal to her won control of nine of the ten provinces at party elections at the end of 2013. This is crucial because provincial executives will have a big say in electing the party leadership at the 2014 ZANU-PF congress.

However, Mnangagwa cannot be discounted. Given that the succession battle is bubbling beneath the surface rather than playing out in the open, the understanding of faction support is based on rumour, hearsay and conjecture. Even if these factions are accurately identified at a given point in time, they are unlikely to remain static, and allegiances will evolve based on changing circumstances. It also thought that, after having served as minister of defence and minister of state security, Mnangagwa crucially enjoys support from much of the country's military leadership, who are likely to have some influence in the succession process. Finally, although a desire to keep his own power undiluted has kept Mugabe from indicating who he would like his successor to be, it is widely believed that Mnangagwa is that person. What is more certain is that Mugabe's succession is now the most important issue in Zimbabwe's political environment.

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