Thanks to the Auditor-General’s special report on ministerial accounts for the first quarter of the year we now know that our rulers find nothing wrong in taking government vehicles (some of them took four each) and making them their own. In other countries this brazen exhibition of executive delinquency is considered theft of state property.
Those caught with their hands in the cookie jar are investigated, charged and tried. In most cases the culprits resign in shame and are forced to return the loot. But we live in a society where corruption has become so endemic that exposes on graft are regarded by the general public as commonplace infringements which should not stir popular indignation.
It is common practice for motorists to give a policeman a bribe to escape being ticketed or for learner drivers to offer an examiner at the VID an inducement to get a driver’s licence, notwithstanding driving capabilities.
To many Zimbabweans today, the ‘inducements’ and ‘thank yous’ paid to public officials do not constitute acts of corruption. It is now a way of life. It is fast becoming part of our culture. We are dangerously in denial about corruption.
Politicians caught with their fingers in the till appear unaffected by revelation of their nefarious deeds.
The report by the Auditor-General in spite of its damning contents therefore means very little to the political leadership of this country.
If it meant anything, then a minister —cited in the report as taking possession of two ministerial vehicles — would have refrained from bidding for the vacant position of vice-president. He has without any shame or worry thrown his hat into the ring to contest for that very powerful position.
He can confidently ask: “What’s all this fuss about two cars when colleagues in high office have expropriated farm property and equipment worth millions of dollars? Why should I buy a tractor when it can be grabbed from the farmer next door? Who has ever been arrested in this country for stealing a whole crop of fruits or maize? Are these not acts of valour; an extension of the revolutionary spirit that liberated this country? Why should I then be arrested for just driving away two vehicles?”
But this is state delinquency writ large. The report provides irrefutable evidence of systematic looting of state resources and private property by public officials. Sadly, our law enforcers are impotent in these instances even when evidence abounds.
This should be a godsend opportunity for the Anti-Corruption Commission to flex its muscles and demonstrate its relevance. The parliamentary committee on public accounts has promised that heads would roll but that is hardly reassuring. We wait to see who will take the perpetrators to the guillotine first!
All the tough talking by the public accounts committee is most likely to amount to nothing as long as there is no deliberate policy in this country to fight corruption in high places.
The failure to deal with corruption, especially the type revealed in the latest audit of ministerial accounts, has a huge bearing on governance in this country.
A minister who grabs state vehicles cannot be trusted to efficiently run a public office because he/she is dishonest. The same is true about all those who stole tractors and other farm machinery in the name of land reform. Good governance is built on a strong foundation of integrity which is lacking in a big way among our rulers.
Many now have careers blighted by violence, theft and corruption and this is reflected in the way this country has been governed. It’s been a crazy tale of bungling and ineptitude.
The government cannot continue to hide behind the false notion that this country is hurting more from sanctions than issues to do with bad governance.
We have to ask ourselves what preceded the other: bad governance or sanctions? The truth is that the targeted sanctions were a response to bad governance in Zimbabwe. Real evidence of that misgovernance can be found in successive reports by our own Auditor-General.
The contents of the report have been ignored with contempt over the years, hence the parlous state of our economy.
It is appropriate at this point in our history to start drawing up a roll of infamy for our rulers. Their misdeeds must be documented and exposed. The acts of infamy must be analysed against our leaders’ so-called liberation credentials to determine their contribution to the development of this country.
We deserve better leaders as a nation. We cannot continue to be ruled by bad politicians whose only claim to leadership are liberation war scars and not competence and integrity.
By Vincent Kahiya