via Mugabe’s legacy rests on uprooting corruption The Standard From the editor’s desk Nevanji Madanhire September 22, 2013
In December last year, after the Zanu PF National People’s Conference held in Gweru, the general populace applauded President Mugabe for speaking loudly against corruption. It had been the general belief among many Zimbabweans and our country watchers that when history is finally written, his failure to fight corruption would blight his legacy.
But for the first time Mugabe admitted that some of his ministers were very corrupt. This was after he had openly rebuked the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority as the most corrupt institutions in the country.
He told the gathered delegates he had been told by former South African president Thabo Mbeki that his ministers demanded bribes from prospective investors. His openness implied he knew by name the ministers Mbeki implicated in rent-seeking.
But the time it has taken Mugabe to follow up on his Gweru statement has raised eyebrows.
The talking point last week was the US$6 million bribe Mugabe said had been given former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairman Godwills Masimirembwa, by Ghanaian investors for them to get a mining concession in the diamond fields of Marange.
Masimirembwa is not a minister and therefore was not part of those Mugabe talked about in Gweru. The public waits with bated breath for these ministers to be exposed. Many fear they might never be exposed because exposing them might weaken his personal grip on power. They argue Mugabe had been told about Masimirembwa’s illicit deal a long time ago but he did not act because it would have weakened his and Zanu PF’s election campaign.
They say if Masimirembwa had won the election in Mabvuku-Tafara on July 31, Mugabe just might not have named and shamed him. He doesn’t wish to lose any parliamentary seat at this delicate juncture when he is fighting for legitimacy. They say this is the same reason he will not expose those comrades of his who were mentioned in the Mbeki tip.
But, it seems the Masimirembwa debacle will have a domino effect. The former ZMDC boss is a small fish in the corruption matrix. Many argue that Masimirembwa could never have pulled off the whole deal without godfather in the shadows, unless he had a very strong n’anga.
Interestingly, the president has put himself in some kind of fix. The nation now expects him to name more names. The starting point should be members of his team who have become stinking rich; he should ask himself how they acquired their newfound wealth.
It is common knowledge that some of them are richer than whole cities. Some huge projects mushrooming all over the country should surely have raised his eyebrows.
What about the huge acquisitions by certain individuals such as private jets and banks, shouldn’t they be probed a bit to prove their cleanliness?
The scourge of corruption is all pervasive. It varies from small amounts exchanging hands to real big money, such as the one exposed last week.
On a recent Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index, Zimbabwe was ranked 163 out of the 176 countries surveyed; that should make every Zimbabwean bow his head in shame. The TI survey says corruption is on the increase in the education, health and mining sectors.
In the education sectors, needy children are denied the financial assistance meant for them which is diverted to the rich. In the health sector, nurses are denying people living with HIV and Aids anti-retroviral treatment by selling the drugs on the open market instead. And, in the mining sector licences are granted only to those that would have paid kickbacks.
The education and health sector examples illustrate how evil corruption can be; when a nurse watches a supposed legitimate beneficiary of ARV drugs writhing on the floor dying, but diverts that person’s drugs to someone else who can afford to pay for the same drugs in drugstores, that surely is an act of evil. The same applies when an official leaves an orphan without education while giving the money to the child of a rich relative.
Many renowned researchers have failed to establish a link between corruption and a country’s economic development, citing situations where corruption has actually risen in tandem with economic development. But a paper written by Paolo Mauro for the International Monetary Fund in February 1997 titled Why Worry About Corruption? spells out the major effects of corruption on a country.
The paper argues that:
In the presence of corruption, businessmen are often made aware that an up-front bribe is required before an enterprise can be started and that afterwards corrupt officials may lay claim to part of the proceeds from the investment. Businessmen therefore interpret corruption as a species of tax — though of a particularly pernicious nature, given the need for secrecy and the uncertainty that the bribe-taker will fulfill his part of the bargain — that diminishes their incentive to invest. Empirical evidence suggests that corruption lowers investment and retards economic growth to a significant extent.
Where rent-seeking proves more lucrative than productive work, talent will be misallocated. Of particular relevance to developing countries is the possibility that corruption might reduce the effectiveness of aid flows through the diversion of funds. Aid, being fungible, may ultimately help support unproductive and wasteful government expenditures. Perhaps as a result, many donor countries have focussed on issues of good governance, and in cases where governance is judged to be especially poor, some donors have scaled back their assistance.
When it takes the form of tax evasion or claiming improper tax exemptions, corruption may bring about loss of tax revenue.
By reducing tax collection or raising the level of public expenditure, corruption may lead to adverse budgetary consequences. The allocation of public procurement contracts through a corrupt system may lead to lower quality of infrastructure and public services.
Corruption may distort the composition of government expenditure. Large projects whose exact value is difficult to monitor may present lucrative opportunities for corruption. A priori, one might expect that it is easier to collect substantial bribes on large infrastructure projects or high-technology defence systems than on textbooks or teachers’ salaries.
All this makes corruption a serious national security issue and is therefore the last frontier in Mugabe’s fight for his legacy.