HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, on Tuesday announced a three-month amnesty window for the return of public funds illegally stashed abroad by individuals and companies.
Upon the expiry of the amnesty at end of February next year, the government will arrest and prosecute those who have failed to comply, Mnangagwa said in a statement.
Mnangagwa was sworn-in as president on Friday and promised to tackle corruption, which had become endemic under former president Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
“Those affected are thus encouraged to take advantage of the three-month moratorium to return the illegally externalised funds and assets in order to avoid the pain and ignominy of being visited by the long arm of the law,” Mnangagwa said.
Zimbabwe’s new president is under pressure to deliver, especially on the economy, which is in the grip of severe foreign currency shortages that have seen banks failing to give cash to customers.
Mnangagwa told heads of government ministries on Tuesday that he was putting together a “leaner” government, which would see the merging of some departments to enhance efficiency.
Critics say Zimbabwe has a bloated civil service, which chews more than 90 percent of the national budget.
Mnangagwa, however, said only workers of retirement age would be laid off. He promised to rebuild the economy and improve the livelihoods of Zimbabweans.
“My government will have no tolerance for bureaucratic slothfulness, which is quick to brandish procedures as an excuse for stalling service delivery to citizens, investors and other stakeholders,” Mnangagwa said in a statement read to the government officials.
After recovering under a unity government between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition between 2009 and 2012, the southern African nation’s economy has unravelled with the unemployment rate above 90 percent.
Mnangagwa is expected to announce a cabinet this week, with all eyes on whether he breaks with the past and names a broad-based government or selects old guard figures from Mugabe’s era.
An official at parliament said Mnangagwa had asked for curriculum vitaes of ZANU-PF legislators on Tuesday as he moves to put the new cabinet in place.
Meanwhile, deputy parliament speaker Mabel Chinomona told the house that she had been informed by ZANU-PF that the party had recalled five legislators from parliament, indicating the five had been dismissed as ZANU-PF lawmakers.
The members, all linked to the G40 group that supported Mugabe’s wife Grace, include former ministers Savior Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo and Ignatius Chombo, who is facing corruption charges in court.