Accountability Lab of Zimbabwe celebrates good workmanship in the Public Service through the Integrity Icon Program.

Regina Pasipanodya

AS a health public practitioner at one of Zimbabwe’s largest mental health institutions, Ingutsheni Hospital in Bulawayo, Anesu Chinguwa (27), who is committed to serving the community without any expectations, never thought that the hard work she puts in behind-the-scenes would be recognised one day.

After all, she works with people who are stereotyped, misunderstood and looked down on.

But this changed last year, when she was honoured as one of Zimbabwe’s top five Integrity Icons of the year 2021.

Her story, along with the stories of other integrity icons, is helping to change the narrative that employees in the public service are corrupt and inefficient.

Civil servants like Chinguwa are helping to change the perception because of their passion, hard work, commitment and the zeal to serve – even when there is no one looking.

Chinguwa has been working as a Health Promotional Officer at Ingutsheni Hospital which specialises in psychiatric disorders for the past three years.

“I work with almost every cadre in the health facility cutting across staff members and patients which makes it difficult to be noticed in such a big crowd, but when I learnt that I had been selected as one of the Integrity Icons in 2021, I felt honoured. I am still honoured, because I did not realise that my work as a mere government official was recognised by other people, especially at such a huge hospital,” said Chinguwa.

Chinguwa is one of the public service employees who were in the first group of five of the Integrity Icon campaign of 2021, a global citizen initiative introduced by the Accountability Lab last year that seeks to name and fame honest government officials. It recognises government employees, who go above and beyond their job descriptions, as they serve the public.

“As civil servants, we are exposed to the greater part of the population and have a high chance of being derailed from having the right morals and values, probably as a way to try and fit in. The Integrity Icon by the Accountability Lab is one of the noble initiatives that is helping us as employees in the public service to be solid in what we believe in especially in the direction of good conduct,” said Chinguwa

Accountability Lab of Zimbabwe is a global trans-local network that helps in engaging citizens, ethical leaders, and accountable organisations to make governance work for people.

The Integrity Icon was launched after the Accountability Lab of Zimbabwe had rolled out other anti-corruption programmes including the Voice2Rep and the Accountability Incubator.

Last Friday, Accountability Lab Zimbabwe celebrated yet another group of five Integrity Icons for 2022, who have shown their dedication and integrity.

These include, Jobert Ngwenya, an award-winning innovative teacher and girl-empowerment champion, who not only excels in class, but has imparted entrepreneurial and life-skills which have prepared his students for societal challenges awaiting them after school, while inspiring his colleagues to go the extra mile in teaching.

He won the people’s choice award.

Courage Chipatiso, who teaches deaf pupils at King George IV Memorial School in Bulawayo was also honoured. She has been working hard to change people’s perceptions about the deaf.

Despite being wheel-chair bound, and living with a disabling condition called Muscular Dystrophy, Courage has managed to overcome odds and has become an inspirational English and Accounts teacher as well as an award-winning dance and drama teacher for her deaf students.

Godknows Dembure, a teacher at Makumimavi Primary in Chivhu, who is seeking to empower young girls by boosting their confidence and developing critical thinking through a chess club, was honoured as well.

Fundile Nkala, a teacher at Sigola Primary School in Matabeleland South, working as a volunteer providing basic things to students such as school shoes and uniforms in a bid to eradicate poverty and Tariro Zitsenga a nurse aide at Parirenyatwa Hospital since 2009 were honoured. Zitsenga has been going beyond her duty of providing comfort and assurance to patients.

In an interview, Accountability Lab Zimbabwe country director Dr McDonald Lewanika said his organisation has been celebrating icons since last year.

“Through this Integrity Icon campaign which is a vehicle to spark a national conversation on integrity and good governance, we managed to identify the public service role models for young people who can shift the narratives, build diverse networks of reformers and influence change in their departments, agencies, and sectors,” said Dr Lewanika.

He said over the years the narrative has consistently trended towards how quiet, grant, and petty corruption had made a permanent home in the civil service and government departments.

“Therefore, regardless of the challenges and perceptions that we as Accountability Lab faced in organising this initiative, this year once again, we managed to celebrate another group of Integrity Icons (2022) lavishly. The first crop of citizen-identified integrity icons was held in March 2022 but as a small celebration which was done within our offices,” he said.

The Integrity Summit which was held recently provided different stakeholders including government and independent commissions with a platform for a conversation about promoting integrity and strengthening the public sector in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe was ranked number 157 out of 180 countries on the 2022 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption on a scale from 100 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).

During his presentation at the summit, Dr Onesmus Nyaunde the Research and Knowledge Management Manager of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission said corruption and lack of integrity are major challenges that requires all stakeholders to play a role to fight.

He commended the Accountability Lab for the good work it is doing through the Integrity Icon initiative adding the fact that five icons were identified after the initial group gives hope of a better future.

“They demonstrate that contrary to the popular opinion where corruption is concerned not everyone is doing it,” said Dr Nyaude.

He stressed that Zimbabwe needs transformational leaders at all levels, who will influence a culture of ethical behaviour and integrity within the country.

Recent studies have shown that over the past years, Zimbabwe is one of the countries that has seen a sharp increase in corruption within the public service, partly because of poor salaries.

According to the Director of Public Relations in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Taungana Ndoro, the public sector especially the education sector has been affected heavily due to the poor service delivery, which has resulted in some educators, particularly headmasters, taking bribes for enrolment.

“Therefore, the teachers following those unethical footsteps end up extorting money from learners which is wrong and unethical. Yes, these things are happening and we are enforcing deterrent measures to curb such behaviour. At least at this point, it’s just a small fraction of the schools, especially those in urban areas out of all 10 147 schools in Zimbabwe that are rotten and we believe that the recognition of the Integrity Icon could influence positive thinking amongst other civil servants,” he said.

“Recently we have been hearing cases of examination leakages, and teachers asking for extra lessons fees among other things. Therefore, it is important that we as the stakeholders in the public sector understand that the more unethical employees in the public sector, the more it will be rotten tomorrow.”

The director of Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development Janet Zhou encouraged stakeholders to be collaborative and form partnerships in the fight against corruption.

“We are in a dysfunctional society and dealing with corruption in Zimbabwe does not require the public service only but requires a partnership of all sectors from the public sector, private sector, and civil society. I commend Accountability Lab for bringing us together in an initiative like this where we engage in a conversation about corruption issues, especially in the public sector,” said Zhou.

“Recognition of one or two people due to the good work of what they are doing in their communities can contribute towards a change of attitude of us as people.

“Being an icon takes work. It heightens expectations from communities, increases attention on one’s conduct, and sometimes leads to false perceptions of material benefit I believe these are tough challenges and we as people must commit to assisting the icons in navigating our collective and individual forms,” said Zhou.

One of the Integrity Icon 2023, Godknows Dembure a teacher at Makumimavi Government Primary School said he is honoured to be part of the Integrity Icons this year.

“I cannot believe that the work that I am doing for my community is being recognised in such a way that I am getting the honorary award today. To me, it’s like a dream and I do not even know who nominated me for this. I just received a call from Accountability Lab that I have been selected and recognised for the integrity work that I have shown in my work as a teacher,” said Dembure.

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