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Debunking the Salary Gate and corruption scandals in Zimbabwe

“In fact, some of the new states are, properly speaking, not states at all; rather, they are virtually the private instruments of those powerful enough to rule.”

(Robin Theobald, 1982: 549)

By Mfundo Mlilo

What are the public policy implications of the current salary scandals and corruption cases that have been witnessed in Zimbabwe over the last one-month? Is there a clear policy framework that is behind these exposures?

Mfundo Mlilo
Mfundo Mlilo

Put differently, has the government of Zimbabwe or the party ZANU PF suddenly found a “damascene” moment and has decided to deal with the scourge of corruption afflicting our country?  Well certainly not.

Is the role of Jonathan Moyo as a ZANU PF strategist in government so pronounced as to shift the attention of government towards key issues of counter- corruption and corporate governance? -Very unlikely.

Has the succession debate become so ugly that the Party is literally washing its dirty linen in public? , Maybe. These are some of the questions that I have been battling with over the last three weeks that perhaps have prompted this epistle. This is no attempt to answer these questions but rather to contribute to the ongoing national debate that may perhaps find the right answers.

It is no secret that there the corrosive cancer of corruption has permeated widespread virtually every facet of life, but more so in state enterprises. What has shocked many Zimbabweans is the extent to which public servants are helping themselves to state coffers in a manner that is not only abhorrent and immoral but also revealing about the true nature of the neo-patrimonial empire that ZANU PF has built over the last thirty-four years.

Zimbabwe is a classic case of how the state has virtually been taken over by a mottle group of “big men” and cronies who are linked by unholy alliances that exist within and outside the state. The Party is the government and the government is the Party.

Civil servants are employed on the basis of their loyalty to the Party, and more recently on the basis of the factional groups within the Party. It is the same networks and connections that pressured Harare Mayor, councilor Ben Manyenyeni to rescind a suspension letter of Town Clerk Dr. Tendai Mahachi despite a full council resolution on the same

What is more disturbing about this state of affairs is that the connections and networks that now form our government are so structural and entrenched. They involve even the highest “offices” in the country. They involve the party members, military, the police, the central intelligence and cabinet ministers. This is a very big problem.

There are some people who naively believe that ZANU PF has adopted a reform agenda and is intent on dealing with illicit and underhand dealings in government. How can that be, who in ZANU PF specifically, when the powerful in the party are dripping with “red blood” and crimes of corruption. The recent comments by the Vice President, Hon Joyce Mujuru are in fact instructive in this regard.

The Zimbabwe Mail reported that in her stunning revelation during an address of the party’s Mashonaland West provincial women’s conference in Chinhoyi on Saturday 8 February, Joice Mujuru said:

“Nditeererei madzimai … iyi nyaya yatiri kutaura iyi yehuori hwemaparastatals muchenjere kuti ndeimwe nzira yaunzwa nevanhu vari kuda kupwanya nyika ino iyi (Please listen to me ladies, regarding reports about corruption in parastatals – be careful – it’s another tactic being used by those keen to destroy the country).”

This clears any doubt about the state of affairs in ZANU PF and its intentions and points us to the leadership renewal crisis facing the Party.

Perhaps before I deal with complicated issue of succession, it is worthy noting that in 2010 President Mugabe and then Prime Minister Tsvangirai launched the corporate governance code spearheaded by the then Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals, Gorden Moyo. That document did not see any light of day.

In early 2013 the Anti- Corruption Commission attempted to raid the offices of former Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, former Indigenization and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, and former Transport Minister Nicholas Goche but were forced to retreat after police and other ZANU PF leaders stopped them from the search. So this whole drama is not new and its end very predictable.

So what exactly is happening in ZANU PF and in Zimbabwe? The answer is not simply. Firstly, there is now no doubt that there is unthinkable corruption and underhand dealings in government, that the leaders of state enterprises and parastatals are paying themselves hefty salaries that are bleeding the economy while low level civil servants are wallowing in poverty.

Secondly, the succession debate is playing out in public. It is clear that ZANU PF is tittering on the brink of implosion. But is this not what we have been parroting about over the last 10 years. Is this not the dominant narrative that has failed to bear any tangible positive outcomes?

Clearly, ZANU PF is more complicated than meets the eye. What is now apparent is that this party understands the logic of power retention and unless a new kind of civic politics goes beyond simply exposing its illicit deals, our generation is doomed for failure.

George Ayitteyi in his book, Defeating dictators: Fighting tyranny in Africa and around the world notes and cautions that, “ A despotic regime does not last forever. It violates the natural order of things and eventually collapses under the weight of its own contradictions…. Freedom lovers and democracy activists cannot wait for a despotic regime to self-destruct. It may take decades”.

Is ZANU PF in the process of self-destruction and will soon collapse or are we waiting for more decades to pass before change comes to Zimbabwe. I have no answer to this question but I believe that we have to build a new kind of civic movement that has cross-sectoral connections. This civic movement must demand political reforms and the implementation of the new constitution.

It must have the capacity to hold political leaders to account for their actions. There is no doubt that a new regional advocacy and re-engagement strategy needs to be articulated because of the changing configurations in politics. At a policy level there is need to revisit the corporate governance code launched in 2010 as a starting point to dealing with corruption.

The government must allow the Anti-Corruption Commission to perform its work without interference. The Commission must be adequately funded and given legislative powers to subpoena witnesses and to investigate cases of corruption.

Mfundo Mlilo is a Fulbright Fellow based at the University of Minnesota, USA

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