Corruption the Root Cause of Zimbabwe’s Malaise

BY JOHN CHIMUNHU

Now Daily Analysis

Picture this: for over a year, the manager of an outstation of the state Grain Marketing Board pocketed $1000 a day diverting to the black market grain and farming inputs meant for free distribution to the poor. During that period of drought and mass food shortage in the arid northern Hurungwe district, the manager stole truckloads of 50 kg bags of maize donated by the West and sold them for $10 each to the very people who were supposed to benefit for nothing. The result was mass hunger, which drew the attention of anti-corruption NGO Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC). Still, when investigations began following a public outcry, whistle-blowers were sacked by the manager. According to ALAC, when the matter became too public to be covered up and the victims started calling for action, the GMB merely transferred the recalcitrant manager to another depot. No legal action was taken despite evidence being available that criminal activities had taken place.

Corruption is the root cause of Zimbabwe’s current economic problems. Zanu PF is looting the state treasury while the MDC-T pillages local authorities which it controls. The plunder is made possible by weak governance structures such as a moribund anti-corruption commission staffed by cronies of the president. The commission exists in name only and has not brought any high-profile cases to the courts or secured any meaningful convictions as expected.

I was surprised that reading through the various reports of the government’s auditor-general, the word ‘corruption’ is hardly ever used against any visible person. Yet, throughout the reports, one gets the distinct feeling that we are being fleeced left, right and centre as a nation. What really bothered me is that in all her ‘recommendations’, auditor Margaret Chiri does not propose sending anyone to jail for grand theft and related crimes.

In fact, what Chiri does is to sanitize an unsanitary situation by claiming to have ‘audited’ books without complete and reliable records. In fact, president Robert Mugabe’s office routinely does not present its books for inspection, does so late or does not provide enough documentation for a thorough audit to take place. My source in the auditor’s office told me that they were threatened with unknown consequences if they probed Mugabe’s expenditure too deeply. Parastatals that were looted and abused by Mugabe and his cronies, such as Air Zimbabwe, Grain Marketing Board, Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe were hardly ever audited. In fact, Air Zimbabwe has not presented its books for auditing since 2009 and no action has been taken, despite daily media coverage of large-scale looting by state officials and their criminal friends.

At Marange Resources, the state diamond firm, upwards of $3 million has been spent paying seven managers who were sent on leave to facilitate investigations into allegations of corruption. Some of the individuals are still getting the astronomical pay and inflated benefits which got them suspended in the first place. In short, there is no control whatsoever, beyond shuffling of ministers by the president and changing of the boards and management by the ministers.

What is so shocking about the Marange case is that while the company made a loss of $30 million in 2013, the board members gave themselves unauthorized ‘holiday allowances’ of $28 000 each. The board also blew $1 million on a curious item recorded as ‘extra security’ for board members and allowances for using their motor vehicles on company business.

When the board was dissolved in December 2013, board members took away luxury company Cherokees and continue to enjoy benefits pending the outcome of official investigations.

Still, on the auditor-general, no-one can seriously expect her corruption reports to be acted upon. The MPs who have to review them in parliament are mostly inept political appointees catapulted to the legislature because of loyalty to their corrupt party leaders and not the ability to think independently and analyse issues with a view to protect the national interest. But as long as the supposed peoples representatives continue to sing the ‘hallelujahs’ and ‘hosannas’ of their party leaders, Zimbabwe will continue to sink further into the quagmire of corruption.

What Zimbabwe needs is a changing of the guard. The old guard with its corrupt tendencies, and the infantile opposition which has adopted the same trends, must all be swept away and be replaced by more accountable leaders for people to follow. Only then can we expect real change.

The present Zimbabwean opposition is tainted. The MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been implicated in numerous corruption and sex scandals. He no longer has the moral authority to challenge Mugabe’s excesses. So are his MPs, councillors and mayors, who have been stealing land and other state resources.

The country needs a new paradigm, where the people say ‘no’ to corruption, no matter who commits it.

© Now Media 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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