Political will remains key weapon in anti-graft drive

24Apr 2016
Guardian On Sunday
Political will remains key weapon in anti-graft drive

IT is now almost five months since President John Magufuli ascended to the highest office in the country, and from day one he has been spitting fire against corrupt public officials.

He vowed to establish a special court to accelerate graft cases, a brawny doubt emerging from the public sphere, particularly as they replicated the past regime’s failure to tackle graft cases involving public officials.

While the number of graft cases has dramatically been on the increase, the snail’s pace with which the cases were being prosecuted generated a frustrating perception from the public, questioning the political will to wage the war on corruption. And if the current government clung to the speed of court operations, it is obvious that some of the cases would not be concluded even in the next 10 years.

But now, the government is walking its talk. As promised by the president, the special court to try corruption and embezzlement of public funds cases is to become operational in July, this year. This was officially declared by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa on Friday while presenting budget estimates for his office for the financial year 2016/17 in the National Assembly in Dodoma.

Tanzania is swimming in a pool of corruption, with public officials holding big chunks of money in their accounts as well as having wealth that do not tally with their income. As of January, this year, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) had already completed at least 36 grand corruption cases. It should be noted that if prosecution of these cases went through the regular courts, their disposal would take a long time possibly years on end.

It should be noted that regular courts are known to be subject to corruption, with endless and frivolous adjournments instead of marathon hearing of cases. Besides, the suspects are normally granted bail on their own recognizance, notwithstanding the gravity of the offences allegedly committed by them.

In some instances, with regular courts, it would become obvious that some judges grant interlocutory or perpetual injunctions to restrain the anti-graft agencies and the police from arresting, investigating and prosecuting politically exposed persons. Or files remain kept in the office of the public prosecutor undelivered to other relevant organs for hearing of cases, which leads to many questions over the power vested in the PCCB.

No wonder PCCB Director-General Mlowola was very elated at the news of the special court to try corrupt and embezzlement cases reached him. He was actually quick to say: “The President has shown that he is serious when it comes to fighting corruption and we need to embrace his pace.”

Without a special court, the president, regardless of his positive intentions, will find that at the end of the five-year term of his administration, the success of his anti-corruption drive is not measured by the number of arrests or convictions carried out by the anti-graft agency. Instead, the public will blame his regime for its inability to secure convictions of corrupt people despite all the evidence at its disposal.

Under such circumstances, the special court has become absolutely necessary as it will deal specifically with felons who deliberately use their positions to deprive public resources and undermine national development strategies.

We equally commend the government for embracing political will in dealing with issues of national interest. We hope that fast-tracking the prosecution of corruption suspects would improve the anti-corruption drive tremendously, give room for specialization and make judges more proficient in dealing with these particular cases.

We think that it’s indeed the right time to establish the special court and that those who thought they would continue celebrating with families and friends with siphoned public funds, it’s now their turn to taste the enormity of their misdeeds.