VOTO’s campaign partly achieves aim as some legislators volunteer to declare assets
February 2009 saw Voices of the Oppressed (VOTO), an organisation run by protest singer cum political activist Viomak, spearheading a campaign seeking to have all MDC GNU leaders declare their personal assets in a bid to hold Zimbabwe leaders accountable as a way of combating and monitoring corruption.
Quoting from the words that were on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T website -"A new era of democratic and transparent leadership”, Viomak initiated the campaign saying MDC was willing to bring a new democratic and transparent leadership in Zimbabwe so the transparency should start with them.
When she spearheaded the Declare Assets Campaign her efforts seemed fruitless and a huge task for a country like Zimbabwe which is rated amongst one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
However, on 09 December 2010, some Zimbabwe media outlets reported that twenty five (25) legislators in the 210 member House of Assembly declared their assets on 08 December and “demanded the ratification of a Code of Conduct making it mandatory for legislators and senior government officials to do the same.”
Pleased by the news Viomak followed the development by publicising a statement on her facebook wall,
“When I read that 25 Zimbabwe legislators ‘declared’ their assets I was very pleased and proud that no matter what they say the Declare Assets Campaign that I spearheaded since 2009 got to them.Now where are my haters like Qubekani Ndlovu who called me a joker for spearheading this campaign and the MDC-T supporters like Tatenda Praise Muhle who harassed me over this campaign.It shows you just hate Viomak.Shame on you.” She wrote.
Her statement came amid revelations that some MDC supporters harassed her over the campaign with some of them calling her a baboon and a goat.
Quite good news for the activist who released a song ‘Chinja Maitiro’ in March 2010 to support the campaign.It has remained difficult to have all the leaders declare their personal assets as MDC-T Deputy minister of Justice and Legal affairs Obert Gutu was recently quoted refusing to declare his personal assets but instead asked Viomak to declare her personal assets first.
During the course of the campaign, in association with VOTO (Voices Of The Oppressed),Viomak who got in touch with Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’spokesman James Maridadi around May of 2009 as she made efforts to get in touch with PM Tsvangirai is pleased that the impact of the campaign is slowly getting positive feedback.
As the campaign gathered momentum in 2009, the activist also got in touch with MDC president of the other faction, Professor Arthur Mutambara who received the request with open arms as Viomak promised him that she would get back to him with more information as she gave the MDC time to implement the idea since MDC-T had come up with a Real Change Code of Ethics and Values that would see MDC leaders declare their assets.
MDC-T leaders, Jameson Timba,Obert Gutu and House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo were quoted at that time agreeing to the idea of declaring assets and hailed it a very good move that would help combat corruption.
As news that one of President Robert Mugabe,s ministers Ignatius Chombo had amassed a mountain of properties through corrupt means spread a few weeks ago ,Viomak resuscitated the campaign and re- engaged Deputy minister Obert Gutu on the need for leaders to declare assets.
Now her determination to have transparency and accountability in Zimbabwe’s government seems to be showing light again after the recent media reports that, “More than 25 Members of Parliament yesterday pledged to declare their assets to Parliament as part of efforts to fight corruption”.
“The legislators said they had taken the decision freely. This, the parliamentarians said, was part of efforts to sharpen anti-corruption activities and ensure confidence in their leadership.”Added the report.
However Viomak said,
“I don’t believe that Zimbabwe leaders took the decision to declare their assets freely. It has never happened since 1980.They only wrote down transparency codes in their books which they never implemented until after the campaign. Typical of bad politicians who don’t want to admit that it was after the VOTO campaign that they decided to declare their assets.It is something that is only happening because of our activism.”
It was also reported that the MPs who declared their assets are “small fish” who include Willias Madzimure (MDC-T Kambuzuma), who is also the chairperson of the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption Zimbabwe, Betty Chikava (Zanu-PF Mt Darwin South), Dorothy Mangami (Zanu-PF Gokwe), Jubulani Mangena (Mberengwa North Zanu-PF), Rensome Makamure (MDC-T Gutu East).Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (Zanu-PF Mwenezi East), David Chimhini (MDC-T Mutasa North), Felix Sibanda (MDC-T Magwegwe), Blessing Chebundo (MDC-T Kwekwe Central) and Senator Agnes Sibanda (MDC-T Gwabalanda) among other little known legislators.
“The big fish are vehemently opposed to the idea and are united in resisting making public the details of their property, reasoning that there was no law compelling them to declare and that they had the right to keep their property under the hat.Only a tenth of the legislators back the plan, and apparently it will not fly without the majority in Parliament.” added the report.
House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo who is said to have received the declarations said he was ready to follow the footsteps of the legislators as he welcomed the step saying it “maintains transparency in the legislature and helps fight irregularities.”
Some legislators who are against the idea of declaring assets claimed that the declaration was a cheap popularity stunt with a senior Zanupf official saying declaring assets is an irrelevant issue, whilst the Speaker Lovemore Moyo maintained that it helps maintain transparency and combat corruption.
“The campaign launched on World Anti-Corruption Day is also a requirement of the APNAC (African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption) and it compels all MPs to submit their property details every year, but legislators who have agreed to take this step can be counted on fingers.” Added the report.
“Unless we have not accumulated property illegally, we can take such a step. I have clearly mentioned my income with bank transactions." Willias Madzimure said.
He added that there was a draft of the Code of Conduct that has not been adopted amid spirited resistance.
“Members of the public should be able to query the levels of wealth that senior officials would have accrued at any given time,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Chapter of the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, was quoted by the media reports saying legislators should declare assets as they look into the assets of others. “Why are they chickening out?” said a spokesperson.
On the other hand a filty rich MDC T deputy is said to have rejected the idea of declaring personal assets and was quoted saying, “A legislator can make public his property details on his own volition, but I cannot take such a decision without a special decision from the Speaker or amendment in legislation,” he explained.
Viomak applauded the effort to declare assets and confirmed that she will keep pressing for the declaration of assets.
“Zimbabwe government leaders are not used to be answerable to the masses so declaring assets is a process that will take time,but it was going to be easier had MDC asked its leaders to declare assets as soon as they entered GNU but it looks like they are looting too.”
“With rumours that some MDC-T leaders like Finance minister Tendai Biti is building a mansion outside Zimbabwe,chances are the resistance to declare assets will be high but we will keep campaigning for it to happen”.She added.
Tags: Viomak , Robert Mugabe , Zanupf , Morgan Tsvangirai , Mdc , Voices Of The Oppressed , African Parliamentary Net
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