PROSPECTS of economic growth in 2017 will remain a pipedream if the scourge of corruption, which has resulted in the country losing billions of dollars in revenue, is not significantly addressed and if there is no political will to fight graft.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
Findings by non-governmental organisation Transparency International (TI) indicate just how serious the problem of graft is in Zimbabwe. The organisation revealed that at least US$1 billion is lost annually in the country through corruption.
According to its report, Political Economy of Corruption and the Battle for Accountability in Zimbabwe 2000/2015, corruption in Zimbabwe has increased due to the plummeting of incomes and poverty.
“A major driver of corruption in Zimbabwe is the widespread poverty and low incomes, especially the low level of public and private sector wages,” the report said. “The average real earnings index for the whole economy has remarkably declined from 159 in 2010 to 95,7 in 2014. This means the purchasing power of wages has diminished, implying that the workers’ standard of living has gone down.”
However, the corruption scourge has become institutionalised, extending to senior government officials, including ministers, but most cases have gone unpunished.
In his 92nd birthday interview last year, President Robert Mugabe stunned the nation when he revealed Treasury received less than US$2 billion in diamond revenues despite earning over US$15 billion.
“We have not received much from the diamond industry at all. I don’t think we have exceeded US$2 billion, yet we think more than US$15 billion has been earned,” Mugabe said.
He also pointed out that those he had appointed “to be the eyes and ears” of government supervising operations in Chiadzwa had failed in their task. Obert Mpofu was the Minister of Mines during the material period.
While many critics felt Mugabe may have exaggerated figures, several reports have detailed the looting of Zimbabwe’s diamonds, especially at Chiadzwa. One such report titled Reap What You Sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe Marange Diamond Fields, compiled in November 2012 by the Toronto-based pressure group Partnership Africa Canada, says diamonds worth US$2 billion were looted since 2008.
Predictably, nothing has been done to apprehend the culprits behind the looting of diamonds despite strident calls for action to be taken.
Cases of corruption hogged the limelight yet again last year but most high-profile persons fingered went scot-free, showing that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) set up to curb graft was a toothless bulldog.
It was also evident that there was no political will for corruption to be effectively tackled as politicians meddled in Zacc’s work.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko was sucked into the corruption saga at the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) after he reportedly ordered the release of acting chief executive officer Engineer Moses Juma and non-executive director Davison Norupiri who were arrested by Zacc investigators on allegations of defrauding the parastatal of US$1,3 million in July last year.
Mphoko arrived in person at Avondale Police Station (in Harare) where he personally secured the immediate release of the two after describing them as his “boys”.
Zacc had secured the arrest of the two Zinara bosses under docket number RR08/05/16. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) charged them for allegedly defrauding the parastatal of US$1 294 575,76.
The episode, which bordered on abuse of office, not only scuttled the Zacc investigation, but also made a mockery of their efforts.
The ineffectiveness of Zacc was further exposed when the commission tried to apprehend Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo over alleged abuse of the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund. Efforts to arrest Moyo resulted in the anti-corruption body being placed under investigation by a Zanu PF committee chaired by Jacob Mudenda.
The commission eventually interviewed Moyo, but not before their efforts to subject him to questioning was blocked by Mugabe during a politburo meeting.
To add to what was a terrible year on the corruption front, was the inflation of the price of the Dema power project which involves Mugabe’s in-law Derrick Chikore, the unprocedural US$5 million payment to convicted fraudster Wicknell Chivayo for power projects by the Zimbabwe Power Company and the contracting of a PR company, Fruitful Communications, owned by Zanu PF MP Psychology for public relations work by Zesa despite the presence of a fully-fledged public relations department at the parastatal, among other scandals.
TI Zimbabwe chairman Loughty Dube said the fight against corruption will remain futile if there is no political will to eradicate the scourge.
“I think that the most important thing in any set up is the government to have political will to fight corruption,” Dube said.
“Unless we have a commitment from the political leadership, the fight against corruption will be a waste of time. If there are allegations of corruption, there should be prosecutions and it should be irrespective of who it is.”
Dube said despite Zacc having a clear mandate to investigate corruption cases, they could not carry out their duties due to political interference. He cited the example of the Mudenda committee which was unprocedurally appointed to investigate corruption allegations in government. He added that there is a need to adequately resource Zacc to carry out its work.
The commission has faced numerous financial constraints and at one time was facing eviction over failure to pay rentals.
Dube said there is also a need to probe allegations that foreign investors are being arm-twisted into bribing Zimbabwean officials.
He said paying kickbacks militates against the ease of doing business reforms being introduced by government to attract much-needed investment.
Economist and Buy Zimbabwe chairperson Oswell Binha said failure to eradicate corruption made those with the mandate to fight the scourge accomplices.
“We could have achieved a lot despite the sanctions imposed on the country, but we then sanctioned ourselves by corruption,” Binha noted.
He added that corruption in Zimbabwe is worsened by the fact that it has become institutionalised, thereby creating what he termed “an underground economy”.
Binha said the country’s systems are also too weak to fight graft.