By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
There once was a television show that seemed to have all of Zimbabwe gripped in its hold: so much so that you knew that the conversations after it aired would be about the latest episode as those who watched updated those who hadn’t or couldn’t.
So much so that those of us that had no televisions would imbibe the whole thing through auditory osmosis. Long after, when it was possible to buy VHS cassettes of the whole thing and watch, one realized that in fact, one’s imagination of the comedy that was ‘Allo Allo’ based on this second hand access was not too far off the mark.
A character in the show, an English policeman who believed himself to be speaking French by simply feigning his idea of a French accent, liked to say, all the time that be brought ‘intel’ to the resistance: “listen very very carefully, for I shall say this only once…’.
Our own great poet, Leonard Zhakata, said the same thing differently when he sang: ‘kana ndichishaura batai mazwi, kuitira mangwana. Vamwe vanozodudzira nepasipo….’
There was once a person that was interviewed for a job, and during the interview said something once. It is possible that when he accused his interviewers of ‘legalized corruption’ some did get his message, because he never did get the job, but those who reported on the matter seemed to have moved on to other things, without listening very very carefully, to what he said only once.
In fact, many that listened seemed to take some warped sense of joy from the fact that he did not get the job. The maths didn’t add up, but people like to see what they like to see.
Legalized corruption is when those with the power to make the rules create laws or conditions which either tacitly condone their corrupt practices or simply allow the doing of things that benefit only a small fragment of society. The example given at the interview was that of a Parliament which passes laws to exempt its members from paying duty for importing cars.
Irony of ironies: one of the interviewers has now been arrested for massive corrupt abuse of office. This is telling: the very people sitting in judgement over those volunteering to fight corruption had skeletons in their cupboards. So, if you get offered a job by such people, is it possible that they did so because you would be very effective?
I do not know about others but if some could listen very very carefully, I likely would say this only once: had I been offered the job then this arrest would have been a very good reason to consider my position and resign. Then again besides the not-so-dearly departed one, we have no resigning culture in this great nation.
The scale of legalized corruption in this country is huge. A few examples will suffice.
The same body that vets corruption busters of the ZACC is part of a group of 350 people who saw nothing wrong with taking a paid holiday to Victoria Falls, complete with per diems, to go talk about a budget whose content is not their responsibility and which they will get a chance to debate in time anyway. I said this once, but no one listened very very carefully: the number of boreholes we could have sunk with the money so wasted is staggering.
The Reserve Bank is talking about introducing new banknotes and coins into circulation (at a time when some societies are talking about going cashless, we are minting pieces of eight!) soon. They have sent out circulars about what the security features of these coins and notes will be, presumably so that we know what is fake and what is not. Except we have not had a serious problem of fake notes in circulation as opposed to the reality of millions of dollars worth of new money that mysteriously shows up at 4th Street.
Please listen to me very very carefully and allow me to say this only once: the night before this money circulates there will be millions of it in the same place and very little in the banks.
When a person that allegedly stole $1million is arrested, you know that there is likely to be lots of opportunities for subverting the course of justice to ensure that they don’t face their music. You even have to start wondering if there is more that they weren’t charged with, especially when they were part of a committee which vetted and appointed ZACC commissioners. You want to ensure that there is no opportunity to interfere with witnesses. Remand prison was meant for that. Is that what is happening in every case?
One finds oneself despondent in trying to say things very very carefully but not once: there is way too much corruption in this country. While efforts at building the economy a genuinely being pursued, it would be hard to speculate that the majority of those standing in public positions are clean. And one must wonder: when your leader asks you to help him fight corruption, and you know you are not clean, how do you go ahead and agree to sit in judgment over interviewees that you know it would not be in your best interests to choose the best ones out of?
It is this hubris that means we will listen more than once but never very very carefully. The same hubris that allows someone facing multiple corruption charges to see nothing wrong with showing up at a meeting of the advisors of a corruption fighting President as if your arrest for corruption was a non-event. Like l said, we have no resigning culture in this country.
We will naturally hear about all sorts of claims around many corruption cases. Zimbabwe is the only country where people that have never seen the doors of law school will tell you about the ‘cab rank rule’ as they try and justify their lawyer friends’ hypocrisy in representing and defending people they claim to be fighting. But it is not a lawyer problem: when they went to Victoria Falls we heard no stories about fights or forced ejections from the meeting rooms. There is a reason for that: when it comes to maximizing opportunities for legalized corruption, you don’t want to complain too much.
It now makes sense that they all want to get Land Cruisers at the expense of our boreholes: the journey to Victoria Falls is long. If your only airline has become a fictitious entity based in someone’s kitchen in Shawasha Hills, you can’t really fly there. A car on the taxpayer’s dime is more indicated. Failing that, your own duty free monstrosity.
Listen very very carefully, for I shall this only too many times: we are not winning the fight against corruption. Yes, we have caught a few, but wait for the release……
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a qualified lawyer and social worker, living in Harare where he practices as an Advocate. He is a member of the ruling ZanuPF. Follow him on @TinoChinyoka