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Genuine democracy and leadership renewal key to fighting corruption

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
31 Aug 2019 at 08:26hrs | Views
As much as any country may formulate grand plans and programs for economic growth and development, these will always remain mere fallacies, as long as corruption is a central part of its society.

We may attach all manner of fantastical labels to our grandiose visions and aspirations of a 'upper middle class economy', such as "Five Year Development Plan", "Economic Structural Adjustment Program", "ZimAsset", even the now popular, "Transitional Stabilisation Program", "Zimbabwe is Open for Business", or "Vision 2030" - but, if corruption is not seriously and genuinely tackled, we will forever walk round and round in circles without achieving anything - as we have been doing for the past 40 years.

If anything, corruption has not only prevented us from finally enjoying the fruits of development and prosperity - something that we have aspired for since the days of the 1970s liberation struggle - but, we have found ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of poverty and hopelessness.

As much as any number of causes may be attributable for the economic sorry mess we find ourselves in - lack of investment, misgovernment, incompetence, and even sanctions - all of these pale into insignificance when compared to the menacing giant of corruption that stands imposing upon our nation.

What is the point of having the best economic policies in place - or, even have the so-called sanctions removed - whilst, we heartlessly and wantonly plunder that very same wealth?

So what is the lasting solution? Is it the enactment of stringent laws against corruption, or giving the anti-corruption watchdog 'teeth'?

Indeed, that would be a very good start, but certainly far from being enough - as there is more to corruption than this.

One of the biggest impediments to a truly effective fight against corruption is what we all have - human nature.

We, as human beings - no matter how noble our intentions are - have always had a weakness for our friends and family. We have always had a soft spot for them, such that we seem unable, or unwilling, to take drastic action against them whenever they falter.

How many police officers do we know of who have arrested their own close friends or relatives - yet, it is obvious that every police officer knows of one or two friends or relatives who are involved on some kind of criminal activity, no matter how big or small.

The same simple principle applies to a country.

A nation's leaders - as with all other human beings - tend to appoint their close allies and relatives in very powerful and influential positions.

Thus, no matter how much those leaders may passionately preach the message of 'zero tolerance to corruption' - enacting laws that show no mercy for those involved in corruption, and even empowering anti-corruption bodies with the most menacing teeth - one fact is true...they will never allow for their close allies and relatives to be touched, even if they are involved in corrupt activities.

Therefore, what will be the point of such seemingly bold anti-corruption drives, if their kith and kin - who would have been placed in powerful and influential positions within the country - are to be left unmolested by the long anti-corruption arm of the law?

We all know that within the 'fire and brimstone' of our leaders' anti-corruption fury, they will always watch the backs of their close allies and relatives. That is a fact that no one can deny.

This happens in any society where human beings exist.

Yet, these close allies and relatives, by virtue of occupying powerful and influential positions in the country, would be the ones responsible for the most brazen and harmful acts of corruption - such that, all the other anti-corruption efforts in place would amount to nothing.

That is where our gravest problem lies.

There is absolutely no point appearing to be fearlessly fighting corruption on one hand, yet on the other, the leaders' own close allies and relatives are undoing everything.

So, how best can this problem be tackled, thereby ensuring that any anti-corruption efforts genuinely yield the desired meaningful results?

Genuine democracy, coupled by constant and consistent leadership renewal.

The main reason our country has witnessed such deep-rooted corruption, since independence, is that there has hardly been any real leadership change over the past four decades of our independence.

This has enabled individuals who have been placed in positions of power and influence by their allies in the highest offices to become too comfortable, knowing that nothing would ever happen to them even if they were involved in the most obscene acts of corruption ever witnessed on the face of this planet.  

Some of the worst cases of corruption in this country have been committed by people who have the backing of our leaders who have been in power for such a long time - as a result, feel untouchable to do anything they want without the fear of any reprisals.

Let us be brutally honest, ever since independence, any seemingly real action taken against a 'high profile' individual, has been as a result of a political fallout with those in the highest offices. Yet, everyone else who was ever 'seriously' implicated in any acts of corruption - from as far back as the 1980s Williowgate scandal - was either found guilty, but received a pardon, or was completely exonerated.

This trend will continue as long as there is no deliberate decision for genuine democracy and leadership renewal - whereby, those placed in positions of power and influence know that their 'keepers' in the highest offices will most likely not be in power during the next term, thereby any acts of corruption will be exposed, and held accountable.

As long as this country does not undertake a genuine path to democracy, that is characterized by a culture of constant and consistent leadership renewal, then the fight against corruption will always be nothing but an empty pipe dream.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on, email:, or WhatsApp: +263733399640, or Calls Only: +263715667700.

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana