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Will 2014 usher in an Egypt style revolution in Zimbabwe? Part 3

04 Feb 2014 at 07:20hrs | Views
In Part One, we explored two contrasting perspectives on the possibility of an Egypt-style revolution in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

On the one hand, the late Professor Makumbe emphasised that "there is a price for freedom," and dismissed comments that Zimbabweans are too afraid to take their frustrations onto the streets; while on the other hand, historian Diana Mitchell signalled that an Egyptian style revolution is not possible in Zimbabwe. We also noted Mao Tse Tung's cautionary statement that 'a revolution is not a dinner party.'

Anecdotal evidence seems however to suggest that some of the six "symptoms" of a revolution propounded by Crane Brinton's Theory of Revolution do exist in Zimbabwe today. For instance, we learnt in Part Two that: (a) People become discontented; (b) People feel restless; (c) Scholars and thinkers give up on the way their society operates. (d) The government does not respond to the needs of its society. (e) The government is unable to get enough support from any group to save itself. (f) The government cannot organise its finances correctly and is either going bankrupt and/or trying to tax heavily. Of course government is still getting enough support from the military otherwise it would be history by now.

It is worthwhile, in this last instalment (Part Three) to focus on one symptom of Zimbabwe's 'fever' - corruption which is arguably the regime's major Achilles heel (weakness or vulnerable point). Drawing on lessons from the Arab Spring it is only right and proper that we analyse Zimbabwe's vulnerability to corruption risk and its implications in the light of recent disclosures that top executives of parastatals are earning mega salaries. We will then conclude with an evaluation of the regime's capacity to handle the growing pandemic.

Highest known mega salary in Zimbabwe

Of all the known mega salaries in Zimbabwe at the moment, it is Cuthbert Dube's reported US$500,000 monthly pay as CEO of the Public Service Medical Aid Scheme (PSMAS) that set tongues wagging. Those in the know say Dube earned almost twice the US$230,000 initially reported when his generous allowances equivalent to his monthly basic salary are added, plus a bonus of over US$1 million.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, this brought his annual earnings in 2013 to US$6.4 million. And he was not alone in pocketing a windfall since the annual wage bill for the 15 PSMAS executives for 2013 was a whopping US$18.6 million with Dube taking more than a third of it (The Herald, 'Cuthbert Dube grossed US$6.4m per year,' 31/01/14 Despite claims that Dube who is now nicknamed "Cashbert", had been fired, the Daily News which visited the PSMAS headquarters on Saturday 1st February found that he was still in his office (see Daily News, 'Dube still in office', 02//02/14).

Yet more shocking was the revelation that half of  PSMAS wage bill of US$33.4 million in 2012 was paid to 14 managers, with the finance manager pocketing a basic salary of US$200 000, followed by group operations executive at US$122 000. According to The Zimbabwe Independent, eight other senior directors were earning a basic salary of US$60 000 a month while middle managers were paid US$30 000, US$22 000 and US$15 000 each.

The other scandal is about the City of Harare's close to US$500 000 monthly salaries expenditure on 18 managers the highest paid allegedly being the Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi at US$37 642. That came after ZBC's own scandal of Happison Muchechetere's US$40 000 monthly pay. Coupled with these revelations is the alleged prejudice of nearly six million euros and US$1 298 828 at Air Zimbabwe in a four year aviation insurance scam believed to involve the airline's top management, according to a forensic audit.
From one shock to another: Zimbabwe's new diet

To add insult to injury on the poor taxpayer is another shocker that the public and private company managers getting hefty salaries are not paying their full taxes with some of them manipulating loopholes in the revenue collection system to evade taxes. An indication that Zimbabwe's corrupt executives have come of age in the art of tax evasion is the reported "official" payrolls that show reasonable salaries and benefits, while on the other hand separate pay systems see cash directly paid to managers without anything reaching the tax department.

As a result one wonders what the Zimbabwe Republic Police's CID, Police Internal Security, Fraud and Commercial Crime Units as well as their feared allies – the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) do. Rather than probing economic sabotage, they are probably concentrating on harassing kombi drivers and locking up democracy and human rights activists.

Did Mugabe know about the salaries?

Despite denials by minister of state Didymus Mutasa that the Zanu-Pf leader Robert Mugabe knew about the 'looting,' MDC-T's former minister of state enterprises Gorden Moyo contends that Mugabe and Zanu-PF were well-appraised of the rot in parastatals during the Government of National Unity (GNU) era, but never took action.

"Line ministers were accomplices to the crimes so they could not prevail on the parastatal bosses," he said (The Zimbabwe Standard, 'Mugabe knew about obscene salaries: Moyo," 02/02/14). Moyo alleged parastatal bosses were bribing ministers with top of the range vehicles such as Mercedes Benz and Toyota Land Cruisers as well as fuel and airtime over and above their official government allocations.

The implications of corruption are too ghastly to contemplate when we consider that the lowest paid civil servant earns US$375 per month. Zimbabwe's pay disparities have the potential of triggering social unrest in view of the fact that as of 2011 lecturers at state-run universities earned up to US$1 200 per month while college lecturers took home US$200 monthly (see University World News, 'Government divided over pay hike, 03/07/11). That was an improvement on 2010 whereby the highest paid lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe earned US$290 a month far short of the salaries of up to US$2 000 paid to other academics in the region. However, the state media's motive in the ongoing salaries scandals deserves analysis.

What is the state media's motive?

It could be argued that the Zanu-PF succession crisis has assumed a new dimension of media driven overt and covert campaigns which are nothing but smoke and mirrors. Though the revelations are definitely shocking and distressing especially for some office workers who are having to fetch water from wells in urban areas and preparing food on wood fires while fat cats pocket six figure salaries monthly, what is surprising is the timing and apparent biased stance by the pro-Zanu-PF media under the leadership of Jonathan Moyo.

While Perestroika is long overdue in Zanu-PF, Moyo's real motives remain suspect as he is believed to be out to score points against Vice President Joyce Mujuru because most of those exposed so far appear to be loyal to Mrs Mujuru. In his posturing about corruption in the country's parastatals and local authorities, Jonathan Moyo's challenge is to go beyond factions.

The Mujuru faction was in November 2013 'livid' particularly with Jonathan Moyo and George Charamba accusing them of pushing the Mnangagwa agenda in the succession battle. According to The Daily News, "they are also angry with Moyo for savaging party spokesman Rugare Gumbo over the Mashonaland Central provincial vote" (See 'Mujuru faction hits back' 22/11/13). But the grudge goes back to December 2004 when Jonathan Moyo who had "fashioned a personality cult around himself" was unexpectedly dropped from Zanu-PF's central committee and publicly reprimanded by the party leader Robert Mugabe.

Moyo was accused of plotting against Joyce Mujuru, a veteran of the liberation struggle who became Zimbabwe's new vice president that year. Mugabe seized the opportunity to deliver what analysts described as a "calculated rebuff" to an increasingly erratic and unpopular minister whose main role is to vilify the regime's opponents and wreck Zimbabwe's free media (See the Telegraph, Mugabe slaps down his unpopular disciple, 06/12/04).

Although, the public expects action to be taken against those found wanting in the exposed graft, there does not seem to be any appetite for serious action. For example, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo swiftly reversed the suspension of Harare Town Clerk Tendai Mahachi and adjusted salaries at Town House while Jonathan Moyo shielded Cuthbert Dube from any further probe for his role at ZBC saying he had been punished enough..

Is the regime capable of clamping down on corruption?

Given that Robert Mugabe's top officials including ministers could be receiving millions of dollars in bribes from foreign businesspersons who are introduced to him as clean businessmen yet some of them are known international fraudsters and money launderers, it is unlikely the regime has the capacity let alone political will to clamp down on corruption.

Even more worrying is the admission by the Commissioner of Taxes Gesham Pasi (I prefer using that old job title) that his officials are finding the going tough in investigating several cases of tax-evasion because anti-graft authorities are complicit in corruption (See the Herald, 'Fat cats evade taxes.'02/02/14). Meanwhile, the former attorney general now prosecutor general Johannes Tomana has said there will be no prosecutions until police have finished their investigations, assuming there are any taking place.

But one concerned Zimbabwean has probably summed-up the public feelings saying:

"Greed and Corruption make a very nasty brew, one that can only thrive and grow in the dark. We need light in these dark places and must remember that light always defeats darkness. When we discover what is being done to us, we then need a democratic revolution to sweep away the debris and bring in a new generation that will restore sanity to our public affairs" (Eddie Cross, 'Unbridled greed now out of control,' The Zimbabwean 28/01/14).

Clifford holds a PhD in International Relations. He is also an author, political analyst, former diplomat and a fulltime PhD Social Sciences candidate at London South Bank University. His doctoral research is on forced migration. 

Source - Dr Clifford Chitupa Mashiri
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