Corrupt States: Outcome Choices – Democracy or Revolution

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
One may ask, is there some correlation between democracy and corruption? It would seem there is.
Those countries with autocratic or ‘president for life’ dictatorships, or those that suffer democracy challenges, seem to have a higher ranking, for being lofty in their corruptness, than those with more stable democracies. The recently released Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 appears to suggest this when compared with other indices.

It is common purpose for lesser free nations to impose extreme controls to sustain their autocratic rule, and this depends upon an array of punitive legislation; a strong securotocracy of partisan service chiefs; systems of patronage, where Peter is robbed to pay Paul, in other words, the party faithful; and a generally kleptocratic ethos, opening up the stratagem for filthy corruption. Sound familiar? Zimbabwe is no stranger to this and is certainly no alien to its poor ranking on the corruption scales.

Zimbabwe, which was ranked joint 154th (with 11 other nations), of the 182 countries surveyed, joins a few other countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region with similar poor ranking and likewise dodgy democracy records. Within the SADC region Zimbabwe is brought together with two others at the bottom of the corruption cesspool, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The top three (least corrupt) in SADC are Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles (Namibia and South Africa follow, regionally, in 4th and 5th place respectively).

If one looks at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index rankings… there is a striking resemblance in their rankings, give or take a few juxtaposed grades and one major exception. Swaziland ranks highly amongst least corrupt, but is rated low on the democracy rankings; synonymous with its monarchic plutocracy, perhaps. Despite this, generally, rank correlation between democracy and corruption is distinctly apparent.

The EIU index places Zimbabwe, Angola and the DRC at the bottom of the SADC democracy standings, while Botswana and Mauritius are top ranking (most democratic) SADC nations (the Seychelles seems not to have been surveyed by the EIU). Here of course is another exception, the Seychelles has strayed from democracy in recent years and perhaps it is only time before the corruption sets in there; if the supposition is correct.

If this hypothesis is anywhere near decent, then, clearly, the solutions to Zimbabwe’s corruption lay with re-democratization of the nation. The people seem to want this, but are far from ready to demonstrate their will. Some years back, Zimbabwe was actually ranked 65th in the TI rankings. This is when the economy was faring reasonably well and the then popular party was getting its own way in power sustenance. There were no threats against the king. Perhaps the corruption ranking was skewed.

Then, about came change…the politicians went and spoiled it all. There was popular resistance to constitution change, which would have entrenched the Mugabe regime; then mindless forays into the DRC to fight another dictator’s squabbles; land seizures, theft and gluttony; denial of freedoms; suppression of transparency; explosion of inflation and consummate hunger; and now indigenisation; and some even say a military coup by proxy.

The people began to resist autocratic leadership and from there on it has been a slide down the slippery slope of political self indulgence, benefiting only the kleptocracy and its patronised bureaucracy. Zimbabwe skidded to its worst on record corruption ranking in 2009 become the 11th most corrupt nation of 180 countries surveyed. All that in just 10 short years, the root cause being simply to sustain a single individual in power, so they say; with his lackey coterie reaping the trappings of his protectionism and patronage. The once popular party now has some of the wealthiest politicians; one has to presume, being the product of lousy, edacious graft.

Some may take heart that Zimbabwe has actually climbed the rankings in 2010. Can we say this is probably the prize of a Government of National Unity (GNU), with ‘new kids’ on the block? Well perhaps not. It does not seem that those ‘new kids’ will be any different. There is a growing cynicism, a new mood, which suggests any new broom, brought about by greater democracy, may not sweep quite as clean as it should. This goes against the theory.

More recently people have been pointing at the nation’s pro-democracy Prime Minister and his apparently scandalous personal affairs presently in the public domain. This is sad and consequently issues of trust are now being raised, personal failures translate to susceptibilities elsewhere. Add to this Zimbabwe’s recent, wealthiest in the World, discovery of diamonds, and one might surmise, unfairly perhaps, that the scales will tip even further down the corruption order, no matter how democratic the nation becomes.

This should be troublesome indeed for Zimbabwe’s new breed of politicians, while the older ones look over their shoulders. The race here must be who gets to the post first, true democracy or the powder keg of violent revolution. We should draw from the fact that famine may purge southern Africa in the months ahead… if we are to believe this, then Zimbabwe could well run short of food, a clear melting pot for dissent. North Africa chose violent revolution, and while the parallels are few; corruption, personal and political self indulgence were core causes. In those primers there are parallels aplenty for Zimbabwe.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!


Political Game Conservation Woes

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIZimbabwe’s south eastern Lowveld features a number of intensive natural conservation areas and the Gonarezhou National Park, a wildness region destined to form part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The domain of the Transfrontier Park is expected to see its international boundaries (between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe) rubbed off the map in a way, allowing free migration of its wildlife and encouraging an influx of tourism. It is an area blessed with abundant beauty and some unique flora and fauna.

While fences along these political boundaries may fall, other political boundaries are being overstepped and perverted by a provincial ‘ruling elite’. The south east has become a war zone, yet again, with hapless wildlife being the victims of the onslaught and enduring politics of jealousy. Are we experiencing the last desperate struggle of a party which has lost its way?

For several months now, self-styled, lackey war veterans, most of whom have never fired a weapon in anger, and grass root, crooked politicians have been gnawing away at the Save Valley and Chiredzi River Conservancies; and nearby national parks, principally Gonarezhou. They are making claims for the landless, knocking down game fences, bush clearing, burning and looting the nation’s natural posterity. Along the trail of this destruction have come the poachers and wood looters, under the umbrella of political confusion, demolishing both beast and woodland in an orgy of greed and destruction.

Giraffe Snared Chiredzi River Conservancy – Author Anonymous

Trade in precious hardwoods for fuel is brisk. Glorious elephant are slain for their ivory tusks, magnificent rhino slaughtered for horn, and several fine feline species destroyed for their skins. Delicate vegetation is being burnt out and replaced with huts, tillage and domestic livestock, in areas which will not support sustained cropping without irrigation. Zimbabweans are devastating their own assets in a narrow minded frenzy of rapacity, but politics is very much at its base. It is African anarchy at its worst.

Zimbabwe has long suffered an era of lawlessness in the name of felonious change aimed mostly at commercial (or white) agriculture. The land grab of the last decade was carried out with impunity by these same dullard, if not misguided, war veterans who now pillage the conservancies and national parks. The land grab reduced foreign agricultural revenues and turned the nation into a net importer of food.

No one is learning the lessons here and most are actually denying they exist. Dim politicians, with no long term perspective, are turning their xenophobic attention to foreign (rather white owned) business, but their victims are no longer just white folk. The nation’s unparalleled wildlife heritage is being pillaged in the process too. It is very much a case of ‘cutting off the nose to spite the face’ (or perhaps better put, ‘line the pocket’).

Elephant shot Chiredzi River Conservancy – Author Anonymous

Die hard conservationists have been distraught at the damage being caused, not because they own the land, or have a stake in the business conducted thereon, but because the very core of conservation is under attack by reckless politicians who, clearly, lack morale fibre. Land claims may arguably manifest a cause, but Zimbabwe has been through that disastrous process already.

Much of the land acquired (some suggest stolen) now lays fallow in once richly yielding intensive farming areas, so why the initiative against national parks and conservancies in lesser viable areas? The answer may not lie with land hunger, but rather with more sinister political objectives of individuals garnering for political influence and, of course, greater wealth. Zimbabweans well know this. It is a protraction of the ethos of reaping where one has not sewn which has saturated certain elements of society.

While the destruction of wildlife is a great tragedy for the nation, there is perhaps a greater catastrophe unfolding, apathy. Zimbabweans just do not seem to care or wish to react. As much as conservationists holler about the despicable fate of Zimbabwe’s marvellous national parks and conservancies, it is only the conservationists who seem to be hearing this. They have been crying out about the south eastern crisis for several months now, and everyone who may have a remote interest or some influence in political or executive circles is turning their head the other way.

Government ministers merely indicate they have not authorised land grabs in the conservancies, yet do not react. Directors of National Parks seem hamstrung and unable to enter the fray, the police re-act slowly and ineffectively, and non-governmental organisations are powerless, while all these little empires emerge in the name of what is really an injudicious revolution. Worse still, fully appraised opposition politicians seem ludicrously meek in the face of it all.

Zimbabwe’s national heritage is at stake here. Few Zimbabweans would remain modest in the face of say the Great Zimbabwe monument being pillaged for its wonderful stone, so what is the difference? Has ‘the party’ lost control of its minions to the extent that Zimbabwe’s wildlife heritage should suffer in an unscrupulous wave of gluttony and devastation, seeing the demise of ethical conservation… is this what Zimbabweans want?

This is all absurdly myopic. It is a gloomy failure by Zimbabweans to protect their wildlife. It is surely time to deploy a real police force or army urgently alongside National Parks to redefine the boundaries and protect what is left. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is seriously at stake. Mozambicans and South Africans will hardly wish to see their wildlife being ushered across baron land to the slaughter on the altar of petty power hungry politics. It is all quite shameful.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!