Rosewin Mutina Wandi, Director General of the Zambian Anti-Corruption Commission, is under pressure to resign. Upon returning from an overseas trip last week she was greeted by a demand from the leader of a political party that she quit. Since then others have joined in, and threats are being made to organize countrywide demonstrations to have her removed from office. All this follows the Commission’s investigation of a Presidential Aide and an alleged leak to the media of a letter she wrote to the President about that investigation.
Fortunately, the Commission is standing by her. Its Board has issued a statement condemning attempts to intimidate her and supporting the professional way she has conducted herself as Director General. The statement makes it clear that the Board considers the attacks against her to be attacks against the Board and the Commission as an institution.
It is not clear yet why the sudden effort to remove the Director General. Is it her candor in acknowledging that outside pressure can sometimes be of value in fighting corruption? Or the Commission’s effectiveness in combating corruption?
Perhaps it is her candor. In a recent interview in Development Today, the Director General explained that outside pressure can sometimes help when pursuing domestic corruption cases. In Zambia’s case, after significant corruption in the health sector was revealed, several donors either reduced or cut off altogether support to the sector. As Ms. Wandi told the Development Today reporter, the termination actually helped the agency with its investigation by waking the government up to how serious the charges were. The cut in funding, she explained, “emphasized that these cases must be dealt with seriously.” The result, she went on, was that the government —
made sure the cases were thoroughly investigated. They committed to reforms in financial management and put up measures aimed at sealing the loopholes in order to control the fraud. . . . I can tell you that people refer to this case over and over again; that we do not need a repeat of what happened in the health ministry. I think it really opened people’s eyes. The hard line taken by the cooperating partners also helped to make people see that corruption is a bad thing and if you do this the donors will react.
Although it is working premise in the anticorruption community that outside pressure can sometimes be of value in helping a government muster the political will to carry a corruption investigation forward, perhaps some in Zambia are unhappy that the Director General was candid enough to reveal it.
Or perhaps some are worried that the under Ms. Wandi the Commission is becoming too effective. Although since becoming DG in November 2011 the Commission has been under-staffed and pressed for funding, observers have commended its work. A recent U4 report, for example, concluded that “in spite of [all the] challenges, the commission has investigated a number of cases and played a role in selected grand corruption cases.”
The pressure on Ms. Wandi follows the irregular way in which an attempt was made to remove the Director of Public Prosecutions in Zambia. Let us hope that both these incidents are simply minor bumps in the road on the country’s way to a strong and consistent effort to combat corruption and uphold the rule of law.