HomeOpinionAntidote for corruption in Zim

Antidote for corruption in Zim

Taisa Tshuma
AN antidote is something created to counteract a poison or an unpleasant situation.

There is consensus that corruption is a poison to the economy and an unpleasant state of existence that the whole country is in.

Zimbabwe, along with Honduras, Iraq and Cambodia, ranks 157th out of 180 countries in the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, where a high ranking corresponds to a perception of high corruption in the public sector.

By any measure, this is a precarious and rather unflattering position for any country to be in.

The circumstances that have put Zimbabwe in this position are varied in pattern but are all rooted in the embattled political discourse.

The two main causes of corruption are greed and incapacitation.

At the base of the economic ecosystem is the incapacitated. What starts off as a survival need, fast becomes a lifestyle sustaining pattern.

Political hegemony, bureaucratic public service systems and a culture that emphasises authority over servanthood means roadblocks to process can arise at any point and time.This inevitably gives birth to bribery and corruption opportunities in an attempt to bypass these roadblocks to process.

A good example of this is the passport fiasco at the Home Affairs department of registry. The whole of Matabeleland South province has one passport application office that accepts only 25 applications per day.

This is a province with the highest push and pull factors that require a passport. The high demand for the travel document and its constricted supply is a created corruption opportunity, not only at the passport office but downstream, like border crossing points.

Citizens are forced to pay bribes to border control officials to facilitate movement without a passport. It then extends to neighbouring countries which receive and host undocumented immigrants. All this occurs because roadblocks to the process of acquiring a passport have been created.

Despite a government subsidy on the cost of a passport, it remains too high for most citizens who need the document to do cross border hand to mouth type of business.

Most of the corruption in Zimbabwe, that the larger portion of the population is involved in, started as a consequence of push factors and opportunity.

People are pushed into corrupt activities to make a living. Opportunities to be corrupt are dangled by out-dated and overly bureaucratic systems.

A police officer, who risks their job and pension benefits for a ZAR50 (US$3,11) bribe is not necessarily greedy but simply desperate to make ends meet. It is a question of survival that develops into a culture because money is sweet and deceptive.Perhaps out of compassion, such corruption incidents are hardly taken further.

Unless it is a moral conviction, it is very difficult to voluntarily discontinue corrupt gains yet it is very easy to be sucked in and trapped into a corrupt lifestyle wherever systems are especially weak, manual, archaic and present an opportunity to be corrupt.

At the top of the economic ecosystem, however, corruption is caused by greed and is kept alive by cronyism and impunity. Since the entire justice delivery system reports in some fashion to a political office, politicians often get away with corruption.

Beyond that, since politicians have the power to influence investigations and prosecution, the so-called kingmakers call in for protection and politicians oblige. This widens the circle of corruption, making it even more complex. Soon everybody has dirt on someone and the outcome is that nobody dares to throw stones, because they too live in a glass house. This becomes a trap.

Corruption is difficult to prove and secure convictions because of how the criminal justice system works.

Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is despite the fact that books may not be balanced, the prosecution must establish beyond doubt, culpability, the method and illegality of the processes used to throw the books out of balance.

Types of corruption are many and all of them form part of the definition of the word corruption for example embezzlement. Many people in the diaspora have been victims of embezzlement, usually by close friends and family, so often donot get reported to law enforcement.

The most common type of corruption in Zimbabwe is bribery. This is basically the dishonest bypassing of statutory or procedural processes where the enforcement authority is incentivised usually with money to turn a blind eye.

The most costly type of corruption in Zimbabwe, however, is political abuse of power. Since the ruling party operates the one centre of power concept, anyone with allegiance to the ruling party can name drop and the ripple effect is presumed to cascade all the way to the president.

In 2020, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo while giving a lecture at the Zimbabwe National Defence University said 77 high profile corruption cases, with a potential prejudice of US$500 million, are being investigated by Zacc as it deepened its fight against the vice. The results have not been impressive.

Former president Robert Mugabe and several ruling party officials previously made allegations that a colossal US$15 billion worth of diamonds vanished without a trace from the Marange fields. A claim that doesnot stand up to scrutiny unless there is more than what we know.

As far back as the 1980s, high profile cases of corruption have been reported in Zimbabwe, among them are the:

National Railways Housing Scandal in 1986.

Ziscosteel blast Furnace Scandal and the US$100 million Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal in 1987

Willowgate scandal in 1988 was followed by another vehicle scandal the very next year, involving the procurement of Santana patrol cars for the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

In the 1990s, the corruption pandemic got worse with social programmes being affected with the War Victims Compensation Scandal,  Grain Marketing Board Grain Scandal and the VIP Housing Scandal between 1994 to 1996.

The Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal was the prominent local authority case in 1998.

Recent high profile cases

Of late there are questions around the Command Agriculture programme and in the Covid-19 era, the Drax International LLC, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, for allegedly selling medical supplies to the government at inflated prices took centre stage.

Then minister of health Obadiah Moyo was eventually relieved of his duties. Moyo allegedly awarded a multimillion dollar tender to Drax International LLC, which was concluded without the consent of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. He was arrested and released on bail and was recently spotted at a state function sitting, among other, dignitaries in Bulawayo as he remains a member of the ruling Zanu PF party.

The Samuel Undenge conviction is a rare case of note involving a ruling party member. Undenge, who was said to be aligned to a rival faction in Zanu PF, was expelled and arrested on charges of corruption for awarding, during his tenure as Minister of Energy and Power Development, a US$12 650 public relations contract to a private company, Fruitful Communications, without due tender processes. Undenge, also a former Member of Parliament for Chimanimani East constituency, was convicted and sentenced to serve two-and-a-half years in prison. His case and sentence went on appeal citing political victimisation but was later released from jail through a presidential pardon.

Henrietta Rushwaya was intercepted at the international airport in Harare by security agents, carrying some 6kg of gold in her handbag en route to Dubai. Rushwaya is the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and a licenced gold buyer with strong ruling party and government links.

Despite what appears to be an impressive body of research and literature on corruption, there remains no results producing work on the ground.

Going forward

All the recommended scientific ways to combat corruption must be deployed. In Zimbabwe, where the vice is endemic and political, a politically initiated antidote type of strategy is needed.

The corruption antidote for Zimbabwe is a series of immunity and leave from prosecution guarantees by the Executive and Parliament targeted at specific sectors to enable the effective deployment of anti-corruption strategies.

An executive immunity programme will allow those who find themselves trapped in the corruption web to get out and start on a clean slate.

The economic dysfunction that prevailed in Zimbabwe for the past few decades has soiled everyone in some way or the other, and this scenario makes it difficult for individuals to take a principled stand against corruption. Guarantees that nothing from the past can just pop up on anti-corruption staff will encourage diligence and dedication to duty.

The executive immunity must be extended to the entire anti-corruption staff and the prosecution systems that have been appointed to deal with corruption.

The idea is to morally capacitate and empower the anti-corruption bodies to be effective and not hamstrung by the well documented history of systemic economic failures.

These anti-corruption bodies presumably employ the cleaner members of society anyway. Exempting them from being answerable to any possible past legacy misgivings is a small price to pay for what they can potentially do to fight corruption.

To back this up would be the recruitment of foreign staff from better ranked countries on the corruption index.

If the government of Zimbabwe is sincere about fighting corruption they certainly need to take more drastic steps. This sluggish approach is not doing the country any good.

  • Tshuma is an entrepreneur and social commentator from Bulawayo. A former retail banking professional. —  Twitter @TaisaPT

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