Zimbabwe: What will a corrupt nation breed?

By Michelle Chifamba – HARARE – When greed and poverty meet, the end result can only be corruption. This is the plight that Zimbabwe, which ranks among the 11 most corrupt countries in the world, finds itself in.

Independent research organizations probing corruption within government ranks produce their findings to the police, yet the findings do not trigger arrests or further investigations.

Within the Municipality, and government departments evidence suggest the abuse of office by a few elite while the ordinary man in the street writhes in poverty.

Unemployed youths roam the streets of Harare in search of informal means of earning money while authorities – from the police, city council officials and other government department officials – are always eager to swindle the penniless lot roaming the pot-hole ridden streets of Harare.

In a letter dated, May 4 2011, the Elected Councillors Association of Zimbabwe and the Combined Residents Association wrote a letter to the police, Serious Frauds section sighting that it has evidence that people were fraudulently and corruptly acquiring pieces of land.

 “Sometime between November 2007 and June 2008, a group of named people, connived to either sale or buy for themselves two Harare City Council stands of different sizes without advertising or going to tender as required by the laws governing the disposal of all urban land,” read part of the letter.

Such, corrupt dealings half a decade later haunts the desperate home owners whose houses face demolitions, yet justice has not been served.

As corruption flourishes, societal development continues to suffer the most, and experts, have raised concerns about the plight of future generations.

According to Coalition against Corruption (CAC) – an independent body that fights against corruption- There hasn’t been any political will in combating corruption.

 “The government is failing to act on individuals who have been fingered in engaging in corrupt tendencies with the country’s anti-corruption body Zimbabwe Anti- Corruption Commission (ZACC) incapacitated,” CAC, notes.

 “Whilst it is important to commemorate 34 years of black rule lest we forget that corruption has rendered many Zimbabweans poorer than they were in 1980 with a few individuals in government living in splendour,” said CAC director, Terry Mutsvanga.

Like a cancer, corruption has spread within the blood cells of society to the lower levels of society and government departments.

Applicants for drivers’ licenses have to fork out money to smoothen the process, those not willing to pay bribes will remain prospective applicants.

Bernard Hofori from the Vehicle Inspection Department in Chitungwiza, confirmed to this reporter that “people fail to obtain driver’s licenses because they fail to grease the right palms” with money.

“It is their driving instructors who are swindling desperate drivers seeking a license in our name.”

According to a former primary school headmaster in Kuwadzana (who preferred not to be identified), corruption has become formalized and legitimized to such an extent that it has become like a cancer chewing into the very roots of society.

 “The levels of corruption are bleeding sores in this society. Even the poorest people, many surviving on just a dollar a day, have become accustomed to the idea of offering a bribe to get a basic service. I remember when I was still a headmaster an old woman approached me for a service and she offered me money as a form of appreciation.”

 “It got me wondering how this woman, who had failed to pay school fees for her grandchild, had managed to raise money to offer a bribe. But for her it was a normal experience that she seemed to have been comfortable with, because she told me, ‘it has become the custom countrywide’,” the headmaster explained.

It comes as no surprise, in the eyes of many, that the 2013 Global Corruption Perception Index, ranks Zimbabwe as among the 11 most corrupt countries in the world.

Out of 174 countries surveyed, Zimbabwe comes in at 163, not far behind the anarchic failed state of Somalia, which takes the crown as the world’s most corrupt nation.

Says Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), a local corruption watchdog organization, “corruption amounts to the ‘dirty tax’, and the poor and most vulnerable are its primary victims, especially those in marginalized communities,”

According to TIZ, corruption is rampant within education, health, mining, sports, and in the judicial and agriculture sectors, not to mention the police and government departments.

However, asked for a comment, the TIZ was cagey with the information, a revelation that Zimbabwe is slowly adapting the fight against corruption.

Zimbabwe’s corruption scourge has been exacerbated by an unemployment rate that has ballooned to more than 80%.

These are the visible symptoms of a failed economy that has killed off the dreams of a stable and productive life for many Zimbabweans and replaced them with a vision of a bleak and bitter future.

Economists are of the view that the government is to blame for the continued corruption as evidenced by the large number of ghost workers in the public service, which has for the past decade cost the country.

According to an independent economist, the government should seriously consider reducing its expenditure, by reducing the number of the public service employees.

 “The civil services is too big and we all know that 90 % of the government revenue is going to the civil service salaries which is unsustainable. The government needs to make very serious and hard choices of reducing its civil service so that they save money and direct the money to other pressing issues like infrastructure development that will stimulate economic growth,” said economist, Irimai Mukwishu.

Almost 9 months after a bruising election, which handed sole control of the country back to ZANU PF after their “convincing” victory, and 34 years of independence, Zimbabweans are daily being mesmerized by news of rampant corruption and graft in government parastatals and the country’s town and city councils.

Senior managers are reported to be awarding themselves “obscene” salaries and perks amounting to as much as half a million dollars a month while ordinary employees go for more than 10 months without any pay. All the media agree that the managerial contempt unearthed in these institutions is “breath-taking”.

Despite the fact that Zimbabwe’s new Constitution states that government should ensure that senior public service appointments are strictly non-partisan and based solely on merit, a culture of impunity, entitlement and graft has developed over the years of economic chaos and has become a cancer that is rotting public service departments at every level of government.

Chapter 9 of the new Constitution clearly states that, “public administration must provide a high standard of professional ethics which must be promoted and maintained and services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.”

But ordinary citizens are now convinced these rights are being trampled upon.

 “We do not ask for a fee to offer a service to the people. It is a criminal offence for us to ask for bribes. It is the people who want a service who offer a bribe to fast track the process. It is a myth that all government offices demand bribes,” says a civil service employee based at Makombe Building who referred to himself only as Ngonidzashe.

Anti-corruption groups and economists are of the view that though the country is endowed with vast resources and wealth its people are suffering at the expense of a few selected individuals.

Industries are being closed everyday while people in most parts of the country are languishing in poverty, ‘the country therefore needs to formalize its relations with international institutions so that it can borrow money,’ notes Mukwishu.

And according to CAC, that can only happen when there is a political will for the government of the day to be accountable of its actions, and both serve and save its people.