By Byron Mutingwende
Harare-based lawyer, Dumisani Mthombeni has stood out as a paragon of the anti-corruption drive in Zimbabwe, with his work attracting accolades both locally and globally.
Mthombeni obtained his law degree at the University of Zimbabwe in 2008. Besides the practice of law Dumisani is a youth and anti-corruption activist. He is the founder of Zero Tolerance-wise Consultancy; the only youth led anti-corruption consultancy in Zimbabwe. He is also the founder of Zero Tolerance-wise Youth Trust which is a not for profit making organisation that seeks to promote all youth led anti-corruption initiatives, gives the youths the platform and voice to demand for transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance.
Before he went into private practice he worked in government as a public prosecutor from 2008 until July 2011. His work ethic, integrity, professionalism and stance against corruption did not go unnoticed.
It was during his time in prosecution that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute (UNAFEI) chose him to go and represent Zimbabwe in Japan at the 13th International Training Course on the Criminal Justice Response to Corruption in 2010.
While in Japan Mthombeni underwent some intensive training on corruption related issues and was among some of the most outstanding participants. He was later chosen to attend the Transparency International Summer Academy in Lithuania in July 2014 where he received further training on corruption related issues. In 2016 ni was once again chosen among the four Zimbabwean representatives who attended the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) East African Regional Summer Academy where he once again received more specialized training on various corruption and governance related issues and attended lectures delivered by world-renowned experts in the field.
Out of genuine passion and a desire to learn from other countries’ experiences as well as build strong networks with other likeminded individuals and organizations, Mthombeni has attended several international conferences on corruption in countries like Brazil, The Philippines, Panama, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania. In April 2016 he was invited to Poland as a speaker at the 2nd Youth2Youth Summit where he presented a paper on ‘The Role of the Youth In Fighting Corruption’.
As a reputable lawyer in society many members of the society look up to Dumisani (especially the youths). Citizens look at Dumisani as a role model and exemplary ethical lawyer and anti-corruption activist of unquestionable character, integrity and leadership. Dumisani is the voice of the voiceless both as a lawyer and an activist. He advocates for a corruption free society where the lives of the ordinary citizens will be uplifted and real justice will prevail. The lawyer is arguably one of Zimbabwe’s most vocal anti-corruption activists. He has organized several initiatives on corruption in Zimbabwe including organizing the International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration events in 2014 and 2015. He was the first columnist to write a weekly column on corruption in Zimbabwe.
Mthombeni always occasionally does interviews on national television and various radio stations on corruption/governance related issues. He also engages with members of the community on a very personal level through community engagement and public awareness campaigns. In 2014 Dumisani together with Tally Bee, co-wrote an anti-corruption campaign song called SAY NO TO CORRUPTION” which raises awareness about corruption.
“We hope to persuade and influence the internal transformation of the inner person in all the youth and citizens to advance national interests as opposed to self serving interests. The organization believes in the engagement of all relevant stakeholders in the fight against corruption as opposed to a counterproductive confrontational approach. We focus more on the youth to catch them young, inculcate the right ethical, professional values (especially integrity) in them at a young age so as to prepare them for both future leadership positions as well as to make them exemplary youths amongst their peers as well as corruption fighters, game changers for a sustainable future and better livelihood for all”.
To achieve its objectives ZEROTYT uses various innovative strategies; artistic talents for example music, drama, poetry, drawings, cartoons, paintings, article writing, competitions, workshops, road shows as well as radio and television interviews to communicate our message and to speak to various governance or corruption related issues.
Mthombeni also stated that; “Our organization will always give constructive criticism whenever it is required and necessary while at the same time acknowledging, commending and supporting the positive, progressive things, initiatives/efforts by all other relevant stakeholders in the fight against corruption. We also seek to bring all stakeholders together; to foster an all stakeholders’ collaboration in addressing any corruption related challenges within our country. We believe that fighting corruption is everyone’s responsibility; that it is not government’s sole responsibility to fight corruption but rather the fight against corruption requires a shared and collective responsibility, which should see all relevant stakeholders actively participating. Our organization also focuses on the preventive aspects, addressing the root causes of corruption so as to effectively combat it”.
As part of its corruption prevention and public awareness campaign; ZEROTYT engaged some of the most popular youthful musicians (15 in total) and produced 15 songs which speak to various corruption related issues. The album is titled ‘TOGETHER AGAINST CORRUPTION Vol 1’. It is an innovative game changing corruption prevention and public awareness campaign done under the flagship of ZERO TOLERANCE-WISE YOUTH TRUST. It is the first music project dedicated towards educating citizens on corruption related issues, raising public awareness, imploring citizens to shun corruption, bringing together all stakeholders and imploring them to all play an active role in the fight against corruption through collaboration (ie supporting and complementing each other’s efforts). This project was born out of the realization that music can be a very powerful tool through which we can spread constructive and positive message within society. Music unites people and transcends boarders.
Mthombeni also said; “To date we have done only one video to accompany the album, that is; ‘HUWORI HWAWONDONGA NYIKA’ by XTRALARGE. In just three days after we posted the video on our Facebook profile page, the video had over 30 000 views and it provoked debate amongst a lot of citizens. Huwori Hwawondonga Nyika means ‘CORRUPTION HAS DESTROYED OUR COUNTRY’.
The song speaks to the devastating effects of corruption to a country, its people’s mindset, culture of doing business and society at large. In this song Xtra Large, in a very comical but extremely informative and educational way raises public awareness and makes reference to arguably one of the most prevalent forms of corruption in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, that is, bribery.
The song speaks to bribery, corruption by the police, road-users along the highways as well as demands for a bribe often made by headmasters or principals at schools when parents are looking for a place at schools for their children.
Xtra Large condemns and bemoans such kind of corrupt mindset and culture whereby individuals or public office holders/officials abuse their positions and office to demand bribes from citizens for their selfish enrichment at the expense of professionalism. Such are the harsh and lived realities by the ordinary citizens”.
“As ZERO TOLERANCE-WISE YOUTH TRUST we intend to do an album launch of our music album but unfortunately we do not have funding at the moment. We have an US$8 000-00 budget for the album launch. After the album launch we also intend to do videos for all the songs on the album, to engage more musicians from different corners of the country who will sing the same message in their local dialects and genres popular in their societies. We have also engaged musicians in Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and The Gambia so far and they have agreed to be part of this initiative, which we are taking to Africa. We also intend to do countrywide tours, as well as road shows with our musicians as part of our corruption prevention and public awareness campaign. We have already engaged some schools to do drama, poets to do poems which speak to corruption.”
Mthombeni is championing the fight against corruption in Zimbabwe; a cause which every ordinary Zimbabwean supports. He is a game-changer and thought leader who provides the youth with a voice and platform through which the youth can contribute to the fight against corruption by actively participating in the cause.
Dumisani and other youth volunteers organize community engagement and public awareness campaigns through which they teach members of the community about corruption, its devastating effects and encourage citizens to shun corruption and encouraging citizens to overcome fear and demand transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance from government, leaders in society and all institutions for a better life for all.
“Some of the challenges we are facing are fear among citizens, a very polarized environment, lack of real and demonstrable political will by some high ranking government officials to effectively combat corruption and lack of adequate citizen participation (apathy) as well as lack of funding for some of our initiatives which we are failing to implement,” Mthombeni said.
Mthombeni is extremely passionate about the cause, a game changer and inspirational figure in whom many citizens have faith and trust in. Dumisani is a man of integrity with a traceable history of resolve in the quest for a corruption free society. He has always used his personal resources to fund the various anti-corruption initiatives.
As a young corruption fighter, game changer and thought leader, in December 2013, he took the fight against corruption in Zimbabwe to a new level. He was the first columnist to write a weekly column on corruption called “CORRUPTION WATCH” in one of the newspapers circulating in Zimbabwe, THE ZIMBABWE MAIL.
Even seasoned journalists were afraid to write about corruption at that time. This was an innovative idea through which Mthombeni was able to confront corruption, educate citizens on corruption related issues, advocate for a corruption free society, challenge the government to deliver on its promise to address the problem of corruption and also demanded for transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance in both the public and private sectors.
Mthombeni also challenged citizens to speak up against corruption. He challenged journalists in Zimbabwe to play their part, to become investigative journalists who uncover and follow up on corruption scandals to finality. Within a short space of time almost all media houses started to cover so many corruption cases. He was able to use this innovative idea and column as a tool of fighting corruption.
Many of his ideas are now being implemented in Zimbabwe and commissioners to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission have since been appointed. Dumisani learnt that just sitting and complaining will never change any bad situation; action is what is required and citizens must overcome fear. Tomorrow’s leaders should be responsible enough to confront today’s challenges without fear for greater good.