Accountability is a concept very close to the hearts of all bankers. Not only are you concerned to ensure that your clients are always accountable for their actions to you when they owe you a lot of money but also no doubt you are fully aware of your own accountability to your Head Office. You all know that if you do not perform properly your head is likely to roll; likewise if your clients do not perform as they have agreed to, you ensure that their heads roll. Banks only operate efficiently and profitably when close attention is paid to the word “accountability”; it doesn’t matter how much window dressing you do or how clever your marketing is, if you do not ensure that your clients are accountable for their actions and if you do not ensure that your subordinates are accountable for their actions your operations will collapse. The same, of course, applies to families as it does to all businesses and indeed nations. I recently heard a remarkable story about the bullet train in Japan. The Japanese apparently take great pride in the punctuality of their train services and especially the bullet train; they don’t talk in terms of it arriving to the nearest minute, they talk in terms of arriving to the nearest second. A businessman was recently in Japan at the time when a typhoon ripped up some of the tracks on which the bullet train runs which resulted in delays. The story goes that the businessman asked a station master why the train was late. The station master made no effort to blame the delay on the typhoon and said that it was entirely “their” fault. Statements such as these are apparently not uncommon in Japan where accountability is held very dear by all sectors of society.

I believe that as we analyse Zimbabwe one of the major reasons why we are facing such tremendous problems at present is because accountability is not to be found in the present Government’s vocabulary. In the last 12 years Government and the ZANU-PF hierarchy have by and large been totally unaccountable for many acts of corruption, mismanagement and sheer chicanery. In other words, they have been allowed to get away with much that would have brought down Governments in more accountable societies.

I do not propose to catalogue every last detail of Government unaccountability as time does not permit. However, I shall highlight various historical incidents in the last 12 years and shall then try to make constructive suggestions as to how we can bring about a more accountable society.

Presidential Unaccountability

I was fascinated to read of the recent meeting of the War Veterans in Chinhoyi when the President was advised to dismiss his entire cabinet as they had failed the nation. At face value this would seem to imply that the President himself is not to be held accountable for our county’s woes; that he is somehow exonerated from all responsibility for the pitiful state we find ourselves in. But surely it is the President who appointed these men in the first place and if they fail collectively he should be held responsible. The President of this country, or any country for that matter, is simply one man, fallible like the rest of us. And if he fails, even vicariously, they he should be held accountable. If the leader of any organisation is not held accountable then it is almost inevitable that his subordinates will be unaccountable as well.

Ministerial Accountability

Sadly this is the case in Zimbabwe where very few of our Ministers have ever been held accountable for their actions. There are three very pertinent examples at present.

1. Ministry of Agriculture

Several people and organisations, citing FAO warnings, warnings of the Grain Producers Associations and other bodies have recently called for the resignation of Mr Mangwende. I do not have enough knowledge about Zimbabwe’s grain reserves etc to say with any degree of accuracy who was to blame for the maize shortage. Two facts stand out however: Firstly our neighbours, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi did not run out of grain as we did at the end of February. To my knowledge there were not any queues for mealie meal in those countries. Secondly, my farmer friends tell me that even had we been blessed with good rains and a bumper harvest that would have only been delivered in significant quantities towards the end of April. Clearly somebody in the Ministry of Agriculture bungled badly. That bungling has not only resulted in near starvation for thousands of Zimbabweans but now has the potential of destroying much of our livestock industry as there is no stock feed in the country.

What has astonished me is that no one has taken the blame for this monumental calamity. Rest assured, had the same thing happened in Japan Minister Mangwende would not only have been forced to resign but would also be virtually unemployable in any other sector of society. This has not happened: on the contrary, I was interested to watch a ZBC programme “Views and Issues” last week when the Secretary for Agriculture and others sought to explain away their incompetence by stating that the food shortage in February and March was due to the drought and “other factors” without going on to say what the other factors were. Another senior Government official on the same programme said that there was no point in pointing fingers and that we should just get on with the job of feeding the nation. Whilst to a certain extent I accept this, it is also important that we identify who was to blame so that that person is not allowed to mismanage anything else again.

2. The Ministry of Energy and Water Resources

Enough has been said regarding Bulawayo and Mutare’s water crisis and the various solutions required to sort the problem out. The citizens of Bulawayo are now waiting for the photo finish end to the Nyamandhlovu Aquifer race to see whether we will get water from the aquifer before our dams run out. Two facts however have not received enough attention: Firstly, Government was warned as far back as March and April last year that Bulawayo was facing a major crisis. It eventually took a concerned group of Bulawayo citizens to motivate Government and the relevant Ministry and even after they had done so all we received were confused signals and dilatory actions. Secondly, we should remember that the same Ministry is responsible for initiating the oil pipeline (in conjunction with Lonrho) between Mutare and Harare which is going to cost the nation in excess of $400 million. Whilst no doubt the oil pipeline will be most beneficial to the country in years to come it is not a project which is a matter of life or death to the nation. One wonders why an oil pipeline has seemingly taken precedence over a water pipeline to Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

The problems with this particular Ministry do not end there. I am advised by sugar farmers that the Tokwe Dam should have been built in the early 1980s but the project was either shelved or postponed. Had the dam been built as requested, Chiredzi and Triangle would not have been brought to near collapse. Government, I understand, in the past used the excuse that it did not have enough money. The fact remains, however, that at the time when the Tokwe Dam should have been built Government concentrated on other prestige projects such as the International Conference Centre, the National Sports Stadium and ZANU-PFHeadquarters. We were only saved the expense of an elaborate new parliamentary building by a massive public outcry.

The operations of the Ministry are fraught with problems: allegations and counter-allegations of corruption by the previous board and the Minister, load shedding, disagreements with the Zambian Government regarding importation of power, allegations that power should be imported from South Africa and finally allegations that power should have been sourced from Caborra Bassa years ago.

To put it mildly, The Ministry of Energy and Water Development would appear to be in a chaotic state at present. Once again, this Ministry and its Minister, Mr Ushewokunze, have sought to lay the blame elsewhere, including the drought. The drought obviously has a bearing on the matter but it does not explain the allegations of corruption, non-existent or at best last minute, confused planning and sheer incompetence.

Whist one cannot blame Minister Ushewokunze for the policies of this Ministry prior to 1990 (the blame for that must, at least partly, lie on the shoulders of Minister Kangai) he is responsible for the actions of the Ministry since April 1990. When one considers that it is the same man who has been responsible for slashing crops wearing army fatigues, has got into unseemly public disputes with members of the ZESA board and members of the soccer team which enjoys his patronage, one is amazed that he still remains in office. When one considers that this particular man has been dogged by controversy in virtually every single ministry he has headed one wonders how it is that he keeps on bouncing back. Once again unaccountability raises its ugly head.

3. Ministry of Home Affairs/Police

A letter to the Financial Gazette on 14th May 1992 chronicles the various trials of senior policemen which have occurred in recent months and calls upon the President to act to restore public confidence in the Police. It is shameful that the Acting Commissioner of Police, the Deputy Commissioners of Police and other senior officers have been charged with a variety of criminal offences. I should stress that as a lawyer I am the first to hold that a man is innocent until proven guilty and I am not for a moment saying that the mere pressing of charges should result in the instant dismissal of police officers. What I am saying, however, is that whenever any police officer is charged with a serious criminal offence that man should at least be asked to go on leave or should be suspended pending the outcome of the trial. This has not happened and we have had the spectre senior Police Officers appearing in Court on one day and continuing with their duties thenext. These actions immediately bring the police force into gave disrepute.

Added to this has been the remarkable clash between the Attorney-General and senior police officers. According to press reports the Minister of Home Affairs has been quoted as saying he is powerless to intervene. If this is correct, what he is saying is that he has absolutely no control over his policemen.

The buck has to stop somewhere. The suspension of senior police officers facing criminal charges and the resolution of the dispute between the Attorney-General’s office and the police is the Minister of Home Affairs’ responsibility. The effect of the Minister of Home Affairs’ inaction with regard to the good name of the police is just as grave and far-reaching as the consequences of Minister Mangwende and Ushewonkunze’s bungling. However, in line with overall Government policy there does not appear to be any accountability required from Minister Mahachi and this intolerable situation is being allowed to continue.

Sadly, the examples I have mentioned above are commonplace in Government. I have not dwelt on corruption or economic mismanagement and abuse of power in our society. No sane person can seriously dispute that our country is riddled with corruption, much of which is concentrated in the higher echelons of Government. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that ESAP itself is not the cause of our economic woes. Our economic woes must be traced back to 10 years of bankrupt policies; policies which scared off investors, bloated our civil service and ultimately brought our economy to its knees. By and large Government has not been held responsible for this rampant corruption and economic decay. Certainly while fingers are being pointed they have not had to pay any price for their actions.

The Causes of and Remedies for Unaccountability

I do not believe that the reason for the level of unaccountability in Government is because of the actual personalities we have in power at present. I do not believe that a change in Government per se would necessarily bring about more accountability. The dictum that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely should be taken heed of as we consider this problem. The reason I started off by looking at the accountability of the President was specifically because it is my belief that our present Constitution vests far too much power in the hands of a few people without any checks and balances. Our Constitution was modelled on the Westminster system of Government, as were many African Constitutions. I believe that the Westminster system works well in a society where there are other checks and balances outside of the executive and legislature. In Britain, for example, there is a strong and independent press and electronic media which do not let Government get away with anything. There are also strong traditions whereby people who blunder are expected to resign. Ultimately, of course, one has the monarchy which has tremendous popular support although no formal political power. The monarchy does act as a check against abuse of power.

The Zimbabwean Constitution was flawed right from the very beginning but it has become even more flawed by the various amendments which have been introduced since 1987. Far too much power has been concentrated in the hands of the President without any of the necessary checks and balances. The President and Legislature are not in real terms accountable to anyone other than the electorate every 6 and 5 years respectively. Because of their grip over the military, Central Intelligence Organisation, the daily newspapers and the electronic media even their accountability at the ballot box is limited.

And rest assured that even if ZANU-PF was voted out of power any new political force that came to power would be just as susceptible to the corruption that absolute power brings. There are very few political saints in the world and the people of Zimbabwe know this. I strongly believe that the reason why there is so much political apathy in this country at present is because none of the present opposition political parties are offering any policies which will ensure that they become fully accountable for their actions when they come to power. The people of Zimbabwe are astute enough to know that any politician given the same unfettered powers as allowed by our present Constitution will eventually also succumb to the trappings of power.

Remedies

1. The Constitutional Amendments

I should state that the Constitution should not be amended simply for the sake of amending it or of bringing back past structures. The supreme body of legislation in the land needs to be amended so that there is a meaningful separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, a strengthening of the judiciary, and the entrenchment of fundamental rights.

a)      Separation of Powers

Law making powers and executive powers must be separated. What has happened in Zimbabwe is that Parliament has simply become a rubber stamp for executive action. The President and Cabinet of Zimbabwe are not in practice accountable to the legislature. When the President and Cabinet decide on a certain course of action there is, in practice, very little that the legislature can do about it. Likewise, the President and Cabinet exercise immense power over the judiciary and the independence of our judiciary is not due so much to constitutional safeguards as to the characters of the men who presently preside over our Supreme Court Bench. Time does not permit for me to go into specific proposals; suffice it to say that the Constitution has to be amended to allow for an effective balance of power primarily between executive and legislature. Likewise, further constitutional provisions are needed to ensure that the judiciary’s independence relies not only on the calibre of the judges by also on constitutional safeguards.

b)      Entrenchment of Bill of Rights

One of the ways of cutting down the power of both the legislature and the executive is by entrenching fundamental human rights. In this way the rights of the people cannot be abrogated in any way by Government. The people and the courts can act together to curtail and prevent Government’s abuse of rights. As the Constitution is presently framed the executive can, in effect, introduce any change it likes to the Bill of Rights, and indeed the Bill of Rights has been seriously watered-down in the last few years. This should not be allowed to happen in the future.

2. Accountability Legislation

There are various pieces of legislation which I believe need to be introduced to make Government and individual politicians more accountable for their actions. The following pieces of legislation, I believe, are absolutely essential if we are to make our governmental system accountable to the people in future.

a)      Hong Kong Bribery Ordinance

Section 10 of the Hong Kong Prevention of Bribery Ordinance makes it an offence for a civil servant to maintain a standard of living above that which is commensurate with his present or past official emoluments unless he can give a satisfactory explanation to court as to how he was able to maintain such a standard of living or how such property came under his control. The legislation seems to work very well in Hong Kong and does have the effect of making Government officials in Hong Kong accountable for their actions. In Zimbabwe we seem to have numerous Cabinet Ministers and other members of ZANU-PF hierarchy who are multi-millionaires, judging by the properties they own and the investments they have. It is important that they should be forced to explain how they came to be so rich. Likewise, it is important that there be a check on any future politicians to explain their standard of living if it doesn’t tally with their income.

b)      Blind Trusts

When politicians take office in the United States they are obliged to put all their business interests under the control of a “Blind Trust”. When they take office they are not allowed to participate in business activities and any of their existing business interests are controlled by trusts over which the politicians have no say. It goes without saying that when a politician’s assets are taken over by a trust the politician is obliged to make a full disclosure of all his assets and business activities. This public disclosure makes politicians effectively accountable to their electorate.

c)       Corruption Commission

Serious thought should be given to establishing an independent commission against corruption. Once again, the Hong Kong Independent Commission is a useful guide for Zimbabwe. The value of such commission in Zimbabwe is that it would not fall under any Ministry, nor would it fall under the police. Many people in Zimbabwe are aware of horrifying acts of corruption but believe that the police will not or cannot investigate such cases. A commission could at the very least be an organisation which polices the police, which is useful in any society.

d)      An Apolitical Police Force and Civil Service

One of the main reasons why there is so little accountability in our police force and civil service is because promotions are generally done on the basis of one’s position or connections within ZANU-PF rather than on merit. The hierarchy in the civil service and police accordingly are generally only accountable to the Party hierarchy and thus serve their interests. Legislation needs to be introduced to ensure as far as possible that the civil service and police force especially are apolitical, and in doing so individual policemen and civil servants will know that their career prospects will rely more on their expertise than in keeping in favour with certain politicians.

e)      Government Accountability for Foreign Exchange Expenditure

At present, Parliament and the public have the ability to vet Government’s internal budget. In other words, the public can scrutinise how much money Government receives internally and how it spends the same. At present there is no accountability regarding how Government spends all the foreign exchange this country earns. It is no secret that with the foreign currency shortage experienced in Zimbabwe, the spending and allocation of foreign exchange gives immense power to Government and individuals within the Reserve Bank. You as bankers know of the vast amounts of foreign exchange that this country earns; you are also aware of the immense problems faced by industry and commerce in obtaining foreign exchange for the importation of equipment and the like. For years there has been a shroud of secrecy over the expenditure of our foreign exchange. I have no doubt that scandals such as Willowgate would pale into insignificance were the distribution of Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange earnings exposed. There are only two ways of dealing with the problem. One is to float our currency so that everyone has equal access to the purchase of foreign exchange. That, however, is probably not practical or expedient for the foreseeable future at least.

Accordingly, the only other way of making Government accountable is for there to be full disclosure of how we spend our foreign exchange earnings. I would suggest that an independent commission, chaired by a chartered accountant, should be set up and given legislated powers to audit and report on foreign exchange expenditure earned by both private and public sectors. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of the Reserve Bank and commercial banks and accordingly think that commercial banks have an important role to play in making suggestions as to how any such proposal could operate.

3. Freedom of Expression

An article in last Thursday’s Financial Gazette finishes with the question, “If the media aren’t there to make politicians and businessmen accountable, who is?” Sadly, in Zimbabwe up until recently the media has been controlled almost entirely by the Government and is one of the principle reasons why the Government has been able to get away with so much corruption, incompetency, mismanagement and abuse of power. Control of the media, especially the electronic media, was not invented by ZANU-PF and this country has never really had a truly free electronic media and press. I am not convinced that a change of government would mean any increased freedom of the press and electronic media. I believe that if the media is to perform an effective role in making Government accountable several policy and legislative changes need to be made.

a)      Mass Media Trust

The Zimbabwe Newspaper Group is at present simply a mouthpiece for Government and the danger is that if any new Government comes to power the Group will simply switch allegiance to whatever party is in power. Whilst I support the right of political parties to own newspapers sympathetic to their respective points of view, I think that it is entirely wrong for a newspaper group which is purportedly held in trust for the people of Zimbabwe to support one particular party slavishly. One suggestion is that the shares held by the Mass Media Trust in the Zimbabwe Newspaper Group should be sold off to as many individual shareholders as possible. Another suggestion is that legislation should be introduced to prevent Government interference with the editorial policy of newspapers.

However, the latter is fraught with difficulty and I think that ultimately the best solution is to level the playing fields and allow the operation of as many dailies as the market will bear.

b)      Electronic Media

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has, as far as I am aware, never run a single programme or news item in its 12 year history which has seriously sought to make Government accountable for its actions. In a country as small as Zimbabwe it is hard to envisage that many broadcasting services could operate profitably.
However, in my view legislation should be passed to allow for the free operation of broadcasting services. Likewise, any public money used to support a broadcasting corporation such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation should be advanced without any strings attached. Perhaps like the police force and civil service, board members should be apolitical. Ultimately, however, I believe that if you introduce legislation to allow for the operation of private broadcasting services, any public broadcasting corporation will soon lose money if it does not have the support of the people. Broadcasting services which critically investigate and analyse Government policies not only help to make Government accountable by also enjoy massive popularity amongst the viewing public.

c)       Freedom of Information Act

Several Commonwealth countries and the United States of America have introduced legislation which enables individuals and corporations to have access to Government documentation. Obviously, there are certain safeguards which prevent the disclosure of documentation which is prejudicial to the security of the State. However, these Acts have been used to great advantage by the press and prospective litigants in the countries I have mentioned in making Governments more accountable for their actions. Consideration should be given to introduce similar legislation in Zimbabwe.

The clarion call in Zimbabwe at present is for democracy, respect for human rights and accountable Government. Democracy and human rights mean many different things to many different people; whilst I would be the first to proclaim that Zimbabwe needs genuine democracy and increased respect for human rights I recognise that both of these concepts often seem ethereal and hard to grasp. Everyone, however, understands accountability. All citizens demand that if Government or individual politicians are guilty of incompetence, mismanagement, corruption or criminal activities they must be held responsible for their actions. If Zimbabwe is to progress it is vital that we do everything in our power to bring about legislation and policies which make Government and politicians more accountable than they are at present. Undoubtedly there are those in Government who will resist any attempts to expose their misconduct and thus to be held responsible. There are those in opposition who do not want change to legislation so that they can benefit. In closing I would quote from the words of Martin Luther King, who said: “Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice”. We cannot expect those who benefit from the status quo to make themselves accountable. The time has come for good, honest, common Zimbabweans to demand that the status quo be changed to ensure that Government, its Ministers and civil servants are all held responsible for their actions in future.

Accountability is a concept very close to the hearts of all bankers. Not only are you concerned to ensure that your clients are always accountable for their actions to you when they owe you a lot of money but also no doubt you are fully aware of your own accountability to your Head Office. You all know that if you do not perform properly your head is likely to roll; likewise if your clients do not perform as they have agreed to, you ensure that their heads roll. Banks only operate efficiently and profitably when close attention is paid to the word “accountability”; it doesn’t matter how much window dressing you do or how clever your marketing is, if you do not ensure that your clients are accountable for their actions and if you do not ensure that your subordinates are accountable for their actions your operations will collapse. The same, of course, applies to families as it does to all businesses and indeed nations. I recently heard a remarkable story about the bullet train in Japan. The Japanese apparently take great pride in the punctuality of their train services and especially the bullet train; they don’t talk in terms of it arriving to the nearest minute, they talk in terms of arriving to the nearest second. A businessman was recently in Japan at the time when a typhoon ripped up some of the tracks on which the bullet train runs which resulted in delays. The story goes that the businessman asked a station master why the train was late. The station master made no effort to blame the delay on the typhoon and said that it was entirely “their” fault. Statements such as these are apparently not uncommon in Japan where accountability is held very dear by all sectors of society.

I believe that as we analyse Zimbabwe one of the major reasons why we are facing such tremendous problems at present is because accountability is not to be found in the present Government’s vocabulary. In the last 12 years Government and the ZANU-PF hierarchy have by and large been totally unaccountable for many acts of corruption, mismanagement and sheer chicanery. In other words, they have been allowed to get away with much that would have brought down Governments in more accountable societies.

I do not propose to catalogue every last detail of Government unaccountability as time does not permit. However, I shall highlight various historical incidents in the last 12 years and shall then try to make constructive suggestions as to how we can bring about a more accountable society.

Presidential Unaccountability

I was fascinated to read of the recent meeting of the War Veterans in Chinhoyi when the President was advised to dismiss his entire cabinet as they had failed the nation. At face value this would seem to imply that the President himself is not to be held accountable for our county’s woes; that he is somehow exonerated from all responsibility for the pitiful state we find ourselves in. But surely it is the President who appointed these men in the first place and if they fail collectively he should be held responsible. The President of this country, or any country for that matter, is simply one man, fallible like the rest of us. And if he fails, even vicariously, they he should be held accountable. If the leader of any organisation is not held accountable then it is almost inevitable that his subordinates will be unaccountable as well.

Read the rest of the speech on DavidColtart.Com.

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