Corruption: Zimbabwe’s Death Knell

By Andrew Field
Flickr_Andrew_XITransparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2009 places Zimbabwe, jointly, as being the 11th most corrupt of nations in its survey of 180 countries for 2008.  The nation climbs to second place, as most corrupt, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, slipping in just after the apparently mucky Democratic Republic of Congo and only just before grubby Angola.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, only two countries in SADC reach the top quartile of  the 180 ranked.  Botswana prides itself at the top of the SADC list, ranked at 36.

One does not have to search too far to find reports and suggestions of massive and endemic corruption in Zimbabwe, or the denials by those who have seemingly looted and pillaged either. Even Tacitus saw the correlation between corruption and a profusion of laws, and Zimbabwe has had its fair share of those ever controlling statutes in the last decade.

Some might well believe that the ruling and profiting elite evidently do not give a ‘hoot’.  It seems strange, therefore, that the current Parliament of Zimbabwe is set to establish a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), provided by Constitutional Amendment No. 19.  Clearly, people must be asking, ‘just what is the point?’  Yet, politicians acknowledge and a few seem remarkably genuine about stamping out graft.  Really?

In fact, we have been through all this before.  This now delicate little nation established an Anti-Corruption Commission back in September 2005.  It still boasts a rather pathetic website which outlines the commission’s vision to ‘build a corrupt-free society!’  Astonishingly, hardly any senior politician or bureaucrat has actually faced the commission’s wrath, but political opponents have.

Zimbabwe is also a signatory to the SADC and African Union (AU) protocols on corruption, not amounting to much, given their respective membership ‘corruption rankings’.  The country also has its legislation, the Anti Corruption Act [Chapter 9:22], but where has all this taken a once proud, and virtuously upstanding nation?

Samora Machel Avenue, Harare - image AD Field
Samora Machel Avenue, Harare - image AD Field

The country, in the opinion of many, has been the victim of massive economic erosion, unfortunately, just too well precedented in Africa.  Africa is not alone here, but like much of Africa, corruption in Zimbabwe is considered a catalyst in the process of self destruction.  Its tenderloin platform is the lush of absolute power, given or taken by a few, in a generally impoverished society.

The politicians and party faithful bureaucrats just could not resist exploitation for their personal gain, so it seems, but far worse, pulled this off, unashamedly, under the auspices of their political patronage.  It is a ‘dog eats dog’ quagmire and so ingrained in system that the ideals of any Anti-Corruption Commission seem rather ethereal, if not laughable, were it not so sad.

One does not have to be an ‘African expert’ to understand the near demise of Zimbabwe.  Graft, cronyism, and patronage are all the by-products of the poorly thought out policies to sustain personal power, oppose threats, and take ‘revenge’ on certain minorities for past historical sins.  The core of all this reverts back to the land, once a rich base for Zimbabwe’s foreign receipts, now turned a weapon.

Productive cultivators were deprived of their land, in favour of a crony gang of raw, ‘cell-phone’ farmers.  Even that process was corrupt preferring the tiny elite with more land than the needy poor.  Little surprise therefore, that this stifled supply of both food and foreign revenues for agricultural production.

Such was the dominance of agriculture, that dual exchange rates; carefree money printing, that prodded sharp inflation; the flight of capital and expertise, while fresh capital inflows dried up; and price controlling all followed suit.  This encouraged black-marketing, and nurtured the very embryo of corruption.  No politicians accept fault, choosing rather to blame drought, phantom enemies of the state, the wicked West and its sanctions, ad nausea, for Zimbabwe’s woes.

This is a tragedy.  Zimbabwe’s only remaining options towards future growth and wealth building lie in good governance, a return to the rule of law, elimination of opacity, huge foreign investment, supposedly from the wicked West, and, to be frank, the need to jump onto higher moral ground.   The road there will be long, of course, and winding too, remembering, naturally, that the chirei[1] has no wheels.

The party elite’s eudemonic façade will fool no one asunder either.  Better governance will have to include free and fair electoral choice; an independent and non-partisan judiciary; armed forces free of party political influence and benefaction; and a bureaucracy loyal to the government of the day rather than political bearers of silver.  All this must be done transparently and free of corruption.  It seems the road will be very long, perilously winding and horribly steep too.

[1] traditional ox drawn sledge


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