Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Zimbabwe is one giant crime scene!

21 Jun 2019 at 22:29hrs | Views
Presently, a newspaper headline reports a ticketing scam by over a hundred Zupco conductors which prejudiced the company of thousands of dollars; fast-tracking the demise of a public transport project which was already unsustainable before corruption was included into the equation.  The week before, another appalling scandal was unearthed at the military barracks. An army commander was arrested for stealing half a million worth of army rations. Roughly a week before the army scandal, a man was arrested for stealing 279 bags of rice from a government minister in Kwekwe; raising questions on why the minister was hoarding bags of rice in a constituency he had ceased to represent in Parliament, at a time the country is facing commodity shortages, or, amidst the Cyclone Idai disaster where thousands we in need of relief supplies.

Council Townhouses across the country harbor illicit deals, land sold to innocent home seekers off-the-book – once the land is developed and homes are built, the council will move to demolish these so called "illegal structures". And yet these corrupt land deals were made in formal meetings, at council boardrooms and without the need to be discreet, or covert. Across the country as I write this, numerous people are paying an official in exchange for a backdoor service, signature or activity. Corruption, nepotism and duplicity has become a common occurrence in Zimbabwe; as of 2018, the country was ranked amongst the 15 most corrupt countries in the world!
But how did we get to this?

In the 1980's, reports of a corrupt scam involving government officials would appall and shock the public. A Commission of Inquiry would follow, writers would publish books agitating against such scandals, singers would compose songs of protests - a government official would commit suicide out of fear of becoming a pariah. Fast-forward to March 2018, there is no outcry when a Parliamentary Committee visits a national Solar Project only to find a storage shack and an unfinished fence where millions of dollars had been paid in advance for a solar energy farm. Instead the beneficiary of this scam went on to become a social media influencer, drawing a huge following from the youth who watch in awe at the wealth the influencer flashes, endearing him with the title, "Sir". It is a new age of "tenderpreneurship" where a businessman with a long history of being implicated in corruption scandals since the Willowgate scandal is reshuffled into ministerial positions; progressing to become Minister of Mines and Mining Development when 15 billion dollars of diamond revenue was rumored to be missing.  The minister's retirement package from political office in 2019 would be a modest politburo membership; ruling the country from the shadows of the ruling party Headquarters! How did we get to this?

President Mnangagwa once promised to "Name and Shame" depraved individuals profiting from prejudicing the country. But in my opinion, that's precisely part of the problem; naming them implies that there are a few covert bad apples engaging in illicit deals under a thick layer of discretion and secrecy and shaming them would imply that corruption is still scandalously deplorable! Zimbabweans have become accustomed to corruption of any magnitude such that corrupt individuals need not be named because they were never hiding, and they certainly cannot be shamed because corruption is an acceptable vice in Zimbabwe.

Corruption is now the ordinary state of affairs in a country where anything is negotiable for a fee; a six-year-old boy will ask for a dollar in exchange for directions to the nearest neighborhood supermarket, a librarian demands lunch money before he writes off an overdue textbook returned to the public library one year past its return date and a petrol attendant will charge his cut for his help in skipping a 14km petrol queue.

But how else would you expect city council employee who has not received a salary in three months to earn a living? Or a family man who has seen the price of every commodity double while his own salary remained the same paltry amount? Circumstances have taught the average Zimbabwean to uphold their fundamental moral, religious values except when it comes to corruption; one simply does what puts food on the table. Corruption is a survival mechanism, a necessary vice.
Who do we blame for all this?

Mutare's most marginalized urban constituency has been represented by a prominent figure in Zimbabwe's largest opposition party since 2000. In 19 years, the opposition has sustained an unwavering following in this constituency, hence, this opposition MP has been re-elected in five elections. The deprived supporters of the opposition party in this district blame the party for bursting sewers in the neighborhoods, the inhabitable dilapidated council apartments, the widespread corruption and the dysfunctional economy. The ruling party is to blame for their marginalization. Meanwhile in 19 years, opposition Members of Parliament have always found common ground with their ruling party counterparts in Parliament when demanding hefty allowances. Every re-election brings a new Land Cruiser to the opposition MP therefore, those who have managed to be re-elected in all five elections, have enough 4x4 vehicles for each of their children to drive to private schools. Opposition supporters vote for Change every five years but are often told it will not come until the next election because the current election process was rigged by the ruling party. They whine about the elections being rigged, and yet seek to be re-elected each election, while in Parliament, opposition MP's demonstrate that as the alternative, they will fall into the vicious cycle of corruption and ineptitude forged by their ruling party counterparts.

Who do we really blame for all this? Is corruption, as claimed, a cancer- begins as a dysfunctional individual cell gradually eating into every fabric of the body until is a diseased host; diminishing innovation and creativity, wasting away the talent of entire generation and ushering in an era of ineptitude, banality and incompetence?

As of February 2019, the Registrar General's office had a backlog of two hundred thousand unissued passports because they are unable to procure printing stationery due to foreign currency shortages; a shortage that has left cross border traders stranded. By April, they announced that they had stopped printing passports except in emergency situations. What constitutes an emergency sometimes at this public office is an under-the-table payout of between two hundred and fifty and three hundred United States dollars, even though the official passport fees are paid in local currencies. The government does not have funds to re-stock the underfunded public hospitals where numerous people die daily of treatable illnesses, or even to reduce the widespread electricity shortages. So dire is the situation that when the United States Government donates 2,5 million towards Cyclone Idai relief program, our President is ecstatic to the point of discrediting his own local currency!  Meanwhile, the son of the Special advisor to the President is implicated in illicit foreign currency deals, the government affords to charter expensive private aircrafts and to purchase luxury vehicles for local chiefs.
Is this what Hippocrates meant when he said, "Before you heal someone, ask them if they are willing to give up the things that made them sick"? In 2017, at the height of a military coup de tat, the people were pacified and wooed by promises of reform; Social reform, Political reform, Economic reform – "A New Dispensation" they vowed. However, in barely two years, the military roamed the streets twice, unleashing a brutal wave of violence against defenseless civilians and maintaining the reign of terror and fear. Could it have been naivety that led Zimbabweans to believe the ruling party would reform itself from violent tendencies, ineptitude and corruption? Or was it hope? Too much hope, maybe?

Zimbabweans are an industrious resilient people, and in December 2018, I encountered a factory owner at a London airport who professed his pleasure in employing Zimbabweans. The Zimbabwean spirit of resilience, to him is an innovative asset in a workplace. Resilience! Our ability to craft a means of survival out of impossible situations. But resilience, whilst a virtue, has not served us well as Zimbabweans. The danger with resilience is that feeds on anything that promised comfort. Because resilience has often has often made us amenable adaptable in situations where defiance would have brought change. When our government's corruption and incompetence brought the economy to the point of dysfunctionality, we sought life in greener pastures, engaged in informal trading and hustled for survival. However, resilience on its own, did not stop the dysfunctionality caused by corruption - the economy continued to spiral out of control and with it, peoples' means of survival; corruption grew until our collective moral compass decayed. Until corruption itself became a means of resilience and an ingredient of survival in a dysfunctional country. This, in my opinion, is how we find ourselves in a state where corruption is a necessary vice for survival, for resilience.

Corruption has become so deeply imbedded into our society that without reform, any alternative leader will fall into this vicious cycle regardless of any well-meaning intentions they may have harbored. Reform, true reform begins with a complete rehabilitation of the Zimbabwean society. A complete re-appraisal of our values as a nation, a re-evaluation of our heroes and role models as youth and a reform of the "hustler" mindset.

Source - Washington Nyasha Gwarada
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.