Source: Sign: Root of much corruption | The Herald April 26, 2016
Takunda Maodza Assistant News Editor
ZIMBABWE has experienced a peak in corruption of late with almost everyone wherever they are employed scrambling to loot the little they can lay their hands on. There is corruption everywhere from the school head to the manager at a private or public company.
Entities and individuals tasked with fighting corruption are corrupt.
Latest reports say four bosses at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission have been suspended for possibly having engaged in corruption of some sort.
Even the traffic cop demands a dollar or two from motorists to allow defective vehicles pass through a roadblock. It would appear corruption is now a culture — a whole way of our living as a people.
Just been thinking of the freshest war between Cdes Patrick Zhuwao and Acie Lumumba.
Of the war between Cdes Supa Mandiwanzira and Agrippa Masiyakurima of the Bopela Group.
Seems everyone is fighting everyone and only God knows for what.
The President has spoken not once, not twice but a thousand times against corruption but events on the ground suggest otherwise.
People steal and when investigations are launched they hide behind the factional finger — to say I am being investigated because I belong to this faction and those instigating the probe belong to a rival faction (within zanu-pf).
This is precisely so in the NetOne saga where we understand the owner of one of the companies believed to have siphoned millions from the state-owned company, has raised the factional flag to say I am being prosecuted because I belong to Faction X and those persecuting me belong to Faction Y. What is important, however, is that the Auditor General has ordered a forensic audit at NetOne.
PricewaterhouseCoopers has since been hired to peruse NetOne’s books of accounts as well as interrogate business deals involving the parastatal.
A forensic audit will definitely expose those hiding behind the “factional wall”.
However, my instalment is not about NetOne or anyone. Rather it attempts to unpack the reasons behind the sudden rise in acts of corruption which has plagued this country in immeasurable proportion.
I stand to be corrected if wrong — I think it is the SIGN! It is the Sign that has seen everyone everywhere stealing whatever is in sight.
Why am I thinking this way?
It is not the poor that are looting in companies be they State or privately owned. The poor steal a loaf of bread to appease hunger chastising their stomachs or a sachet of toothpaste lest their mouths turn into blair toilets.
The question is why do the rich steal?
The people we assume are living large — the chief executive officers, the chief accountants, managing directors, the bank executives — why do their hands find their way into company safes?
The reason is laughable. The political economy of the sign theory by the Frenchman, Jean Baudrillard, aptly captures it all.
It is all about status.
Yes, it is status that drives many to do what they would not do had “status” never been born.
The slogan goes — You are what you eat. You are the underwear you wear. You are the house you built, and the car you drive! Humans reduced to commodities.
And Baudrillard sums it all in his book “La Societe de Consommation”.
He argues: “Consumption has become a kind of active labour, an active manipulation of signs — a sort of bricolage in which the individual desperately attempts to organise his privatised existence and invest it with meaning.”
What is consumed is not the object itself, notes Baudrillard, it is the idea of relation — what the object signifies or reflects about the individual consuming or owning it.
It is the tendency of the consumer society to surround itself with abundance and we are verging on a point where consumption seizes life entirely.
Baudrillard notes this too when he posits that — in this phenomenology of consumption, the general climatisation of life, of social relations represent the accomplished, the consummate stage in an evolution based on stark abundance, moving through the articulated networks of objects to the total conditioning of acts and of time.
It is the desire to objectify life that has seen Zimbabweans — especially those at the top in society — stealing from the companies that they are mandated to manage to prosperity, folly collapsing the enterprises in the process.
They steal to build mansions on the acme of mountains because it is their belief that perching themselves on mountain tops reflects who they are and what they are worth.
They loot to buy the most expensive cars as it is their belief too that such cars speak volumes about their identity and societal position.
One needs to visit the homes of company heads implicated in this or that corruption scandal to confirm my argument — a chain of expensive cars in the yard as if a car sale — welcomes you.
The nation probably needs to demystify this as some youths now believe in exaggerated consumerism leading them into illegally amassing wealth no matter the means.
It is the belief that the Sign (label) — be it on your shoes, underwear or car — reflects who you are that has led many into looting the limping corporates they are supposedly managing.
Have you ever asked yourself why after every few years company executives buy themselves expensive cars even when the last they bought is still magnificent in all aspects?
It is the desire to keep pace with the Sign.
It is the Sign that speaks volumes on their behalf. Hanzi anodriver Mercedes Benz S65 AMG — then you ask yourself what’s with the vehicle — it is the Sign.
The S65 AMG monster is associated with richness and abundance. This even explains why today you see a youth from such places as Rugare, without even a shoe to cover his toes, buying a car.
The mentality is that even though I do not have shoes — the car must pretend I am a man of means.
Misplaced priorities commodified!