Corruption by any other name…

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By Saul Gwakuba-Ndlovu

THE recent formation of a new Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his decision to grant it powers to arrest has created a feeling of hope throughout Zimbabwe that the new dispensation is serious about creating a new human Zimbabwean face to replace the old monstrously avaricious image that some Zimbabwean Government departments were presenting to the public. 

President Mnangagwa has strongly spoken against corruption since he came into office towards the end of 2017. 

However, nothing really tangible had occurred to show he meant business until the arrest by the Commission of a sitting Cabinet minister on allegations of stealing more than $95 million from public funds. 

At the time of writing this account, the matter was being handled by the appropriate judicial system and could not, therefore, be publicly discussed. 

In this article, we look at corruption in Zimbabwe in the following areas: 

  • The handling of public finances; 
  • Corrupt practices by some public administrators, including those in the recruitment and deployment of personnel; 
  • Employees’ attitude to their duties; 
  • Gender relations at state workplaces 

In Zimbabwe, the handling of state finances by some senior Government employees has been problematic more or less since the early 1980s when a certain Peter Paweni claimed and was paid about $6 million without having offered all the services he had promised the Government. 

He was imprisoned.

Since then, the Auditor General has repeatedly issued critical reports about some people and companies that have been paid by some Government department for material or services that were not delivered. 

A notorious case is that involving Wicknell Chivayo who, in 2017, was paid slightly more than US$5 million before his company had even started on a Government energy project in Gwanda. 

The Auditor General has made public several other cases. 

While it is arguable whether or not all these cases warrant arrests, it is quite clear that the Commission would be well advised to investigate each one of them thoroughly. 

Recruitment and deployment of public service employees is more or less centralised in Harare. 

That means that communities that are geographically near that city stand much better chances of hearing about public service job opportunities than those in distant regions. 

That situation may be due to natural circumstances but a Makhulela or Tizora or Sinazongwe or Domboshava (in Mwenezi) resident may feel that the system favours communities residing in and around Harare. 

Some observers can attribute the preponderance of the advantaged communities to deliberate favouritism — corruption by another name if we stretch the meaning of that word. It is necessary for the commission to look into this issue with the aim of broadcasting information about public service jobs far and wide. 

One way of effectively doing it is to involve district administrators’ offices, traditional leaders’ courts and all high schools. 

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s radio network could be a part of that information network. 

Deployment of public service employees should consider the region of origin of the non-professional employee concerned, so should employment criteria. 

A completely negative impression about the national Government is created when one finds people born and bred, at, say, Hurungwe or Karoi or elsewhere being Government office sweepers at, for example, Beitbridge or Plumtree, Mutare or Nyamapanda while local people are selling onions or tomatoes on the pavement outside. 

The commission should deal also with such down-to-earth matters as they are, in effect, forms of corruption and generate complaints against the national Government. 

Cronyism, regionalism, nepotism, tribalism and racialism, when practiced in employment awarding, and that of irresponsible usage of national resources and/or opportunities, are a form of corruption. 

They must be firmly condemned by every progressive Zimbabwean. 

Cronyism had its roots in some American universities in the 17th Century when former graduates who had risen on the corporate ladder of some companies would employ only those who had formally attended the same universities as themselves. 

Regionalism started in Asia Minor in the Hellenic colonial period when many people were brought from Greece and settled in conquered territories to the exclusion of the indigenous communities. 

Samaria was a typical example of resettlement on the basis of regionalism as a deciding factor for the beneficiary.   

Nepotism was born of corruption, particularly sexual immorality by some popes in the Vatican a couple of centuries after Christ’s crucifixion when some popes impregnated some nuns. 

The nun concerned would then be hastily transferred to a faraway country such as Russia or the Netherlands where she would give birth, and after a few months the infant would be taken to an orphanage to be brought up as ‘the pope’s nephew’ (nepos papae). 

Such illegitimate children of some popes were educated at the Church’s expense, and were later given high positions in the church, blatant corruption in practice in the very first Church in the world. 

A pope whose papacy was not a particularly admirable period was Julius who was elected on February 6 337 and died on April 12 352. 

The word nepos underwent some Italian change in form and connotation, and ended up as nepotismo and means favouritism shown to relatives in conferring official positions or privileges. 

It is actually corruption and nothing less. 

Tribalism is a negative pre-disposition towards those who do not belong to one’s ethnic or linguistic community and is prevalent among people with nuclear or micro national tendencies. 

Many ancient African kingdoms were generally called by their sovereign’s title, as was the case with Munhumutapa and Mambo, or were given the name of the tribe as a whole as was the case with the Kikuyu and the Bakwena. 

Members showed unquestionable political loyalty and cultural attachment to their community and its territory and regarded neighbouring peoples as virtual, if not actual, threats to their existence and resources in their area. 

The slave trade strengthened that attitude, leading to the attitude we call ‘tribalism’. 

It now has neither room nor role in today’s multi-ethnic states. 

However, we still have, among us, some people with highly self-centred ethnic attitudes. 

Some of those people are in administrative national positions such as land resettlement departments. 

They may act as if Zimbabwe is a mono-tribal nation by giving all resources or opportunities only to their ethnic group, or they may give resources overwhelmingly to their own and neglect other communities. 

That is corruption without any doubt. 

A look by the Commission at land resettlement would be most appropriate for the whole nation. 

Zimbabwe has a number of parastatal organisations, many of which have run aground. Blame has been heaped on the shoulders of the management of each of those parastatals. 

That may be justified by the fact that management of any organisation is in a stewardship relationship with the ownership of the organisation. 

Since stewards are keepers of the keys of the organisations under them, it is natural to blame them if those organisations fail. 

However, that may not always be the case as each nation has its own work ethics, by which is meant principles according to which communities are judged. 

In this case we are dealing with Zimbabwe’s (black) working class. 

How honest and careful are our workers, especially with the tools and any other company assets? 

How many times per year did each of the failed parastatals replace its tools? 

Do actual hands-on parastatal workers give their optimum to the organisations in terms of time and labour power? 

What is the average monthly rate of pilferage of products, and peculation of company funds?

How much per month does each parastatal spend on fuel, maintenance and repairs on vehicles allocated to company management officials? 

These and similar questions could be put to various parastatal management personnel to find out whether or not those organisations are professionally run. 

The Commission can do the nation a world of good by investigating every organisation in which the Government has some interest. 

Saul Gwakuba-Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sgwakuba@gmail.com

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