Friday, 13 May 2016

Corruption and murder: at par inexcusable crimes

By Bernard Bwoni

In Zimbabwe, as in many other parts of the world, when it comes to corruption it is convenient to point fingers at government shorting comings and that is all fair and acceptable because government has the ultimate responsibility to the people of the country. The government has its own fair share of short-comings when it comes to the fight against corruption and that is not a secret. The levels and degrees of corruption in Zimbabwe at the moment are astounding, kick-backs and graft have become imbedded in the culture and life of the country to the point of normalcy. There are many hardships and challenges in Zimbabwe, as there are in many parts of this world. Life is hard everywhere you go in the world and people work very hard to get by and people in Zimbabwe are no exception. The hustle and persistence of the Zimbabwean people is world renown. However, in some sections of Zimbabwe society these hardships have opened the floodgates of corruption. The disappointing thing is that there have been very few, if any arrests of high profile public officials in the corruption fight. A few small fish have been fried but nothing major hence why the corrupt tendencies continue unabated.

The role of the government of the day is to facilitate and put into play policies, processes and systems for efficient service delivery. Such systems are the safeguards against corruption and they require robust, committed and consistent follow-through. The only responsibility the citizens have is to ensure that such systems and procedures are not violated as stipulated by the law of the land. The fact that one struggles to identify a single high profile public official who has been jailed for corruption does not mean there are none. It sounds harsh, but jail the only lasting and effective cure for corruption. The practice persists because there are no real consequences. There has to be real consequences for wayward law enforcement officials, government officials and those citizens who break the set out regulations and engage in these economic crimes against the country. Some of the things people in the country are getting away with is shocking and the worrying thing is that some of these things are now being accepted as the norm. The government has the responsibility and accountability to ensure that people have access to the right services and citizens have a responsibility as well to ensure that basic duties of a citizen are adhered to. The normalisation of corruption is unacceptable and must never be entertained.

Why is it that there appears to be a high level of leniency when it comes to corruption? Very few arrests, sparing sentences and disproportionately reduced jail terms. On the 4th March 2015 the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commissioner Chief Executive was sentenced to 10 years for fraud. That is commendable that this man was prosecuted and jailed, but it is shocking that he will only serve 2 years of a 10-year sentence for this economic crime. This level of leniency will not deter corrupt activities. There have been more allegations against the commissioners of the same Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Committee (ZACC) and if those entrusted to harness corruption are compromised then God help us all. The boss of ZACC was arrested and jailed only a year ago and those he left behind are still engaged in corrupt dealings, then that is a losing battle against corruption surely. As far back as 2014 there have been corruption allegations linked to the Anti-Corruption Commission with Commissioners allegedly receiving salaries and spending large sums of money on hiring government cars many months after their contracts with the ZACC had expired. It was only in April 2016 that four ZACC Managers were suspended on allegations of engaging in underhanded practices. This is only a year after their boss was convicted and only serving a very lenient 2-year jail term of a 10-year sentence. This leniency is not a deterrent. It is important to state that these are still only allegations, but these crimes against the state are serious and sentences and consequences should be more severe. These four managers have merely been suspended for such serious allegations. Corruption and murder are at par crimes that should be condemned and punished. The trail of both corruption and murder is graves and turmoil for survivors. The graves of corruption are not as evident as those of murder, but they are all over.  Diverting money meant for healthcare or food procurement has murderous implications nationwide.

The government has to move away from all the rhetoric on corruption and introduce more drastic and correctional measures to curb this embarrassing and deep-rooted decadence. Corruption has far-reaching implications for the nation as a whole and government has no choice but to arrest this scourge, arrest and jail the economic criminals. There is no value in simply naming and shaming those who are implicated in corruption because they will continue with the practices immediately after being named and shamed. Those involved in corruption should be prosecuted and where they are found guilty, long jail terms should be imposed. There is no point in empty threats and high-sounding declarations that we are going to fight corruption when the architects of corruption are left to continue with the practices. There are jails in Zimbabwe and there are there for a reason. Those high-ranking officials found guilty of corruption must be jailed period, and a mere two years is not enough to correct the mind-set. The Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary should work together to tackle corruption more effectively. If any arm of the state is compromised, then there is no point in even attempting to fight corruption.  Each arm of the arm of state must be razor-sharp in the fight against corruption and once blunted it affect the whole process.

The effects of corruption on business, service delivery and investment into the country are far-reaching and significant. It is difficult for legitimate businesses to thrive in corruption-ridden environments. Service delivery is severely hampered by corruption and investors are often sceptical of putting their money in corrupt systems. Corruption has to target transgressors across the board and not just target the small fish in the vast sea of the degeneracy. High ranking public officials are not sacred cows and must never be immune from prosecution. It is quite sad to hear people say things like ‘one has more chances of being mauled by a shark in Mukuvisi River than being arrested for corruption in Zimbabwe’. The flouting of procedures and processes, the clear disregard of the same laws and rules that are meant to safeguard the country from such administrative malfunctions as corruption clearly points to a cushioned and comfortable culture of impunity that reigns supreme and must be dismantled. That has to be said because these economic crimes have cost the nation billions of dollars and continue to do so. Institutional dishonesty has become normal, acceptable and even embraced. There is no way corruption can take place without the knowledge of state administrators. No way. Just look at the battle of Harare City councils fighting to prevent the audit of their activities for self-preservation purposes.

It is time for Zimbabwe to Look East in the fight against corruption. In 2015 alone over 280000 public officials have been punished for corruption in China. That is a staggering figure and it shows genuine commitment to tackling corruption instead of mere empty rhetoric. Since the Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping came to power, over 80 public officials and political figures at provincial or higher levels have stepped down after being charged with corruption. These are high ranking officials who have fallen in the fight against corruption and that sends the right message. Big names like Mr Huang Xiaoxiang removed from his post as Deputy Secretary of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Mr Zhou Yongkang the Former Head of China’s Police who also has fallen. That sends the right waves in the fight and often a real deterrent against corruption. To restore the entire country’s faith in the ruling party, it is important to clean up all ranks by making examples of corrupt public officials.


Cde Bernard Bwoni is the Vice Secretary for Admin for ZANU PF UK. He writes in his own capacity.

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