They call themselves Chimurenga heroes

TO say there is corruption in Zimbabwe is a banality bereft of any national significance. The subject is easily displaced from the core of national priorities as Zimbabweans have trained their focus on survival iss

ues: the cost of basic commodities, rentals, health and education.

Attempts by government to elevate the scourge of corruption to the same level as other ills like inflation have failed. The government has set up an Anti-Corruption Commission as a bulwark against graft and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono also raised the stakes in his 2005 last quarter monetary statement.

On Tuesday in his Independence Day speech, President Mugabe spoke at some length on corruption, imploring the nation to help him to catch the thieves.

This presidential rendition is not likely to stir the nation into corruption-busting. In fact if Zimbabweans were to heed the call and immediately act, we would have seen mobs storming the VIP tent at the National Sports Stadium to effect citizens’ arrests. The president does not need to look far for the corrupt. They are there in high office and the manifest failure of government to act has killed the fight in the ordinary man.

Last Thursday we reported that Vice-President Joice Mujuru had been told of senior government officials who had looted equipment from the once productive Kondozi Estate in Odzi. The state-controlled Manica Post also published details of how 40 hectares of maize grown by the army wilted when a government minister commandeered a pump being used for irrigation for use on his farm. Other senior officials helped themselves to tractors and motor vehicles from the farm.

Kondozi is a microcosm of the widespread looting of farm infrastructure involving ministers and senior civil servants.
This culture is a direct product of the fast-track land reform programme where lawlessness was allowed to prevail in the name of correcting the injustices of our colonial past. Even when the government says the land reform has been “concluded” Zanu PF functionaries continue to invade farms, even those belonging to fellow blacks.

Last week we reported new invasions of sugar estates in the Lowveld. The sugarcane on the affected properties is due to be harvested at the end of the month. Some of those involved have just abandoned land that they have been occupying for the past three or four years. They obviously felt it was time to move on to something fresh to plunder.

Two senior Zanu PF officials from Manicaland, Enoch Porusingazi and Esau Mupfumi, have been arrested on charges of corruptly acquiring maize and cheap government fuel respectively. They are the only ones on the list despite clear evidence of maize and fuel being diverted by new farmers for resale on the black market.

The fuel saga is an undisguised illustration of government’s role in aiding and abetting corruption. A situation where the same commodity is sold at three different prices can only breed corruption. There is fuel for the farmers and public transporters at about $20 000 a litre, fuel for parastatals and other quasi-government agencies going for $100 000 and the rest of us buy it for $200 000. We have seen the same happening in fertilisers which farmers have been getting for free or paying $300 000 for a 50 kg bag and then reselling it for $2 million. Everyday newspaper classified sections have adverts of dealers selling expensive fertiliser most probably diverted from government stocks. The police have told us they are investigating. Like the president we do not know where they are searching.

This all sounds commonplace now because the ordinary citizen has over the years been groomed to participate in corruption rather than expose it. But the real tragedy in all this is our government’s failure to articulate the cost of corruption to the nation. There is no need for forensic audits here. One only has to look at the trillions pumped into agriculture and the output from the fields. The reason we are importing maize has very little to do with drought, Tony Blair or sanctions but hemorrhaging from corruption by those who are shielded from prosecution by patronage.

We all remember TV footage of white farmers labelled saboteurs because they were not watering their wheat or maize crop. If these were saboteurs what then do we call those who steal irrigation pumps, maize seed, fertiliser and fuel? Heroes of the Third Chimurenga? They are thieves, imbavha!

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