By Njabulo Ncube
To my knowledge, the report is an accurate reflection of the corruption situation in Zimbabwe. I find...
The story is fairly accurate. However, the inflation rate cited (11.27 million percent in August) is...
The article has a very interesting human interest angle, and it shows some of the challenges ordinary...
Still, the ordinary people of Zimbabwe find ways to get by. A common Shona proverb goes: "A goat gets fatter by browsing around the tree it's tethered to." For Zimbabweans, this justifies reporting to work, even when it makes more economic sense to stay at home, rather than spend meager resources attending a low-paying job.
The workers of Zimbabwe are reeling from a severe economic meltdown blamed on President Robert Mugabe's misrule and skewed economic policies. Recent government estimates have pegged Zimbabwe's inflation rate at a staggering 231.2 million percent the highest in the world as of July 2008. Squeezed by skyrocketing inflation and stagnant wages, many of Zimbabwe's employed have resorted to using their positions to illegally earn money.
Nearly everyone collects bribes in U.S. dollars or South African rand two major currencies widely used in Zimbabwe to hedge against the collapsing local currency. Civil servants at government institutions charged with issuing public documents increasingly view their jobs as cash cows.
The country's poorly paid policemen, for example, trudge to work with the full knowledge that they will spend the day extorting bribes from motorists. Motorists passing through a police roadblock on any major highway routinely fork out anywhere between US$10 and US$12 per roadblock. This means that a single driving trip from Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, to Bulawayo, the country's second largest city about 450 kilometers away, can set one back more than US$50 in bribes alone.
Tonderai Kwidini, a freelance journalist in Harare, paid US$350 to acquire a class four driver's license a payment that he shrugged off as a "necessary evil." "If you want something, you need to pay," Kwidini said.
"When we appoint some of these people, we assume they are capable, but I think to some extent we have misjudged some people who hold important positions," Joice Mujuru, Zimbabwe's vice president, said. "They are full of the individualistic feeling and practice. Our society is no longer clean. It's like we are developing crooks."
Corruption in the Press Corps
Even the country's press corps has fallen prey to the temptations of corruption. It is, for example, an open secret that reporters routinely collect bribes from politicians and sports figures in exchange for favorable coverage. In one particularly egregious case, one freelance journalist was hauled into the court system after demanding a new suit from a politician. Two national reports, published by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, showed that graft was rampant in the media and that at least one journalist had been cited for corruption.
Ironically, Mujuru's own husband, Solomon, has been cited in a number of media reports as being involved in corrupt activities. In fact, one of his close associates, David Butau, a former ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) legislator for Guruve North, was forced to flee to Britain last year after embezzling money into his HSBC Bank Channel Islands account.
Theft on a Grand Scale
Indeed, vice has been so endemic that Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) startled the country when he told journalists in January 2008 that he knew that many top officials were engaged in corruption. Specifically, Gono charged that corrupt government and business officials were responsible for cash shortages which forced the RBZ to introduce six sets of high-denomination notes early in the year. In short, the scale of official thievery was so significant that it contributed substantially to the debasement of the national currency. Indeed, according to Mary-Jane Ncube, director of an independent nongovernmental organization which monitors corruption in Zimbabwe, the country looses as much as US$5 million to corruption every day.
On two occasions, Gono, President Mugabe's personal banker, said he was prepared to name and shame specific officials but then failed to show for a meeting with the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance.
It bears mentioning that Gono has himself been subject to accusations unproven in any court other than the court of public opinion of participating in corrupt activities. The conventional wisdom assumes that Gono has used his position as central bank governor to fuel the foreign currency parallel market, and has purchased property and businesses for himself using state funds.
Even President Mugabe has hinted he is aware that most officials in his government are corrupt. Despite this acknowledgement, and the subsequent establishment of an anti-corruption ministry and an anti-corruption commission, little progress has been made to stamp it out.
The Mugabe Factor
In 2005, President Mugabe formally established the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Success has been slow coming, though, and there is a growing belief among Zimbabweans that the ACC is a toothless dog. Out of the 147 corruption cases reviewed by the ACC in 2006, only four were completed.
The opposition accuses Mugabe of stealing the March 29, 2008, presidential election through rigging and the use of violence, which claimed the lives of more than 100 supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Due to the election dispute, western countries and other Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders have refused to recognize Mugabe's re-election, citing rampant electoral fraud. (South African president Thabo Mbeki announced a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and the opposition on September 11, 2008.)
Meanwhile, leading members of Mugabe's regime are reportedly transferring tens of millions of U.S. dollars out of Zimbabwe to safe havens to avoid the threat of tightening sanctions, as well as the possibility of financial scrutiny by the opposition, according to the July 2008 issue of Africa Confidential magazine:
"Most of the politicians and businesses taking out the money use established banks and insurance companies to make the transfers. They take advantage of the fact that several big financial institutions quote their shares on the stock exchange in Harare, as well as those in Johannesburg and London. The money is drained out of Zimbabwe to either Britain or South Africa with minimal institutional scrutiny, after which it is transferred to even safer offshore jurisdictions or to financial centers in east Asia."
The same Africa Confidential report also noted that within the Southern African region, Mugabe's officials stashed their loot in Namibia and South Africa, where the ruling elite have invested heavily in property, usually registered under the names of family members.
"If you are not corrupt, people laugh at you."
Mugabe has no qualms about greasing judges' palms to curry favor in the courts; and Zimbabwe's judges have few qualms about accepting bribes. For example, all the country's judges and service chiefs received customized 4x4 vehicles at a cost of US$30,000 each, in a country where the majority of the population survives on less than one U.S. dollar per day.
John Maketo, an official with an anti-corruption watchdog group in Harare said that corruption in Zimbabwe was so deep-rooted and institutionalized that some people accept it as their sole means of survival. Acknowledging that corruption is on the increase largely due to the economic crisis, Maketo says that Zimbabweans have begun to actually celebrate the most corrupt among them. Only "small fish" are prosecuted for petty corruption; big fish are immune to prosecution as they are cash-rich. "As a country and a people, we have become [so] morally degraded that we accept corruption as a normal practice. If you are not corrupt, people laugh at you," says Maketo.