“Corruption has disastrous impacts on development when funds that should be devoted to schools, health clinics and other vital public services are instead diverted into the hands of criminals or dishonest officials” – Ban Ki-moon, December 2015
9 December means very little to many Zimbabweans but, it is on this day that the world pauses and campaigns against corruption. Lip service to the campaign shows either our lack of knowledge about this epidemic or maybe a resigned sense of powerlessness that often engulfs societies afflicted and affected by corruption. It is surprising therefore that we, who are most affected by corruption are the ones who are doing the least about it.
Our government acknowledges the ills of corruption as evidenced by the many anti-corruption conventions and protocols that it has signed over years. These include The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol Against Corruption (2001), The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003) and The United Nations Convention against Corruption (2003). We even have the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (2005), established through an Act of Parliament. Conventions, Protocols and Commissions alone without action to prevent the illicit financial flows will not plug the holes that corruption is creating in our society.
Maybe the rhetorical question is that if our government is signatory to many of these protocols, why then is corruption such a problem? The following scandals merely serve as examples : 1987 — Ziscosteel Blast Furnace Scandal, 1987 — Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal — $100 million , 1986 — National Railways Housing Scandal, 1988 — Willowgate Scandal, 1989 — ZRP Santana Scandal, 1994 — War Victims Compensation Scandal, 1995 — GMB Grain Scandal, 1996 — VIP Housing Scandal, 1998 — Boka Banking Scandal, 1998 — ZESA YTL Soltran Scandal, 1998 — Telecel Scandal, 1998 — Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal, 1999 — Housing Loan Scandal, 1999 — Noczim Scandal, 1999 — DRC timber and diamond UN-reported scandals, 1999 — GMB Scandal, 1999 — Ministry of Water and Rural Development Chinese Tender Scandal, 2001 — Harare Airport Scandal, (Excerpts from a paper presented by Dr G Shana at the Mass Public Opinion Institute Seminar, Crowne Plaza Hotel, May 9, 2006). I have only listed scandals up 2001. Beyond 2001 the levels of corruption increase exponentially. What has caused our society to watch as corruption extents its tentacles to the core of our nation.
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index of 2014 rates Zimbabwe number 156 out of 175 countries with a percentage score of 21. Many in politics might doubt this rating or perhaps take this with a pinch of salt. Be that as it may, what matters in the world of developmental finance, economics and business is perception. If we are perceived to be corrupt, then the decisions on Foreign Direct Investment are based on that perception. (Shouting from “look east” hilltops about Zimbabwe being a victim western perceptions does not change the perceptions). At best, let us fight corruption tooth and nail and at worst, let us be seen to be fighting corruption so that we change perceptions and subsequently decisions on foreign direct investment.
As an example the new President of Tanzania has not done much in the fight against corruption but is being hailed as part of a “new breed of African leaders”- that he maybe, I am not disputing. I however think that the best thing that he has done is to be seen as not tolerating corruption. His unannounced visits to different government departments and firing of officials will definitely change the perception that people have about doing business in Tanzania. If sustained, Tanzania’s fight against corruption will be bruising but it will lead to a better life for the majority.
Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is a statutory body set up to fight corruption in the country. My problems with this agency are that of integrity and public trust. The public does not trust that this organization acts impartially, without fear or favour and many believe that it is very corrupt. This year, the CEO of ZACC was sentenced 10 years for defrauding the commission. Such actions by key officials cast doubt on the integrity of ZACC and the trust that the people are supposed to have. I do not remember any successful sanctions or conviction by ZACC since its inception which leads me to believe that it is either ineffective or it is compromised.
A problem with the nature of corruption especially in the African context is that it is thought of as involving “pointing fingers”, which in many African cultures is considered disrespectful. Additionally, given the politics of the land, any “finger pointing” especially when the “fingers” are direct at government will be viewed with a political lens. The end result is a torpid corruption fighting strategy juxtaposed with ideals of patronage. As culture and politics are dynamic, we need to craft dynamic and innovative measures that protect those who report corruption at the same time ensuring that those involved in corruption get their due reward. We have a responsibility to build a prosperous Zimbabwe. That responsibility involves reporting corruption and opening up the fight against corruption to include all key stakeholders.
This International Anti-Corruption Day, let us as Zimbabweans remember the following
- Prevention, Criminalisation, International Cooperation and Asset recovery are key in fighting corruption (UN Convention on Corruption);
- The government should restore the integrity and trust of public in the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission by giving it “teeth” and independence to operate without “fear or favour”;
- Like charity, fighting corruption can begin at home – let’s start with the small fight;
- The fight against corruption is not only up to government, each of us should as the ZACC says “Refuse, Resist and Report”;
- Corruption is a very big stumbling block development. If the millions lost through corruption were channeled toward development, ours would be a prosperous country;
- As many of you read the above points you would be tempted think, “never in Zimbabwe”, but the reality is that if we do not start thinking about tackling corruption, we shall forever be suffering nation. This International Anti-corruption day, let us fight and campaign to rid our nation of the plague of corruption.
As many of you read the above points you would be tempted think, “never in Zimbabwe”, but the reality is that if we do not start thinking about tackling corruption, we shall forever be suffering nation. This International Anti-corruption day, let us fight and campaign to rid our nation of the plague of corruption.