By Kingstone Jambawo.
ZIMBABWE’S brand of democracy has been contaminated by the germs of nepotism, cronyism, and corruption and the combination has fuelled the on-going nation destruction. The timid Zimbabwean population is watching whilst the national resources are being squandered through corrupt practices, which include bribery and the illegal, unethical peddling of influence, facilitated by nepotism, and cronyism.
Our elections have remained legitimatising window dressings as we continue to turn a blind eye to wanton abuse of power and corrupt practices. Zimbabwe needs a new society that says, no more favouritism, nepotism, cronyism, corruption and intolerance and call for accountability and transparency in government. However we cannot get it if we do not fight against these ills, all of which are major obstacles to national integration, economic growth and development.
Zimbabweans have lived for far too long as a struggling people in a country that has potential if it was not ruled by brute force. Democratic processes have been elusive, dating back to the Cecil Rhodes’s British South African Company (BSAC) regime of the late 1890s onto the Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front (RF) regime of the 1960s-70s and then Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF regime of the 1980 right into the new millennium; Zimbabweans have not found it easy to recover their national esteem since.
It is with sadness to note that, President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF henchmen have, for 37 years, tormented a peace-loving friendly, adaptable Zimbabwean people, who long for democracy, functioning health and education systems and equal opportunities to use their creative energies, to create the materials and spiritual wealth that would improve the quality of life for every citizen. Mugabe and his elite ZANU-PF group have corrupted themselves by abusing the state machinery and have become more savage that the Rhodesian regime.
Zimbabwe’s economy has suffered a great a deal due the combination of these three evils therefore they should not be left to prevail, hence there is need to explore their nature, intensity and source so as to be able to harness them. We owe it to ourselves to fight this plague, however, the origin is crucial to strengthen acceptability, and to ensure discard.
Nepotism is a problem when someone in power especially government, starts supporting himself with like-minded individuals or favourites, or family, as that opens the way for the misuse of the position and to the detriment of the needy and powerless. As we are witnessing in Zimbabwe, this has led to the misuse of national resources – the national airline, security forces – for personal gain and power and to its restriction to a ZANU-PF elite group.
In order to maintain power, the authoritarian Mugabe has on many occasions sought the help of relatives and individuals that he can count on as being absolutely reliable. Like Libya’s Gaddafi, one of the best guarantees to his prolonged stay in power is to appoint members of his own family and cronies who are aligned to his family to important functions, no matter whether they are qualified for the job or not.
In the context of promoting family members in family-owned businesses and corporations, nepotism is seen as legitimate and therefore acceptable. This is because the impact of the preference is ultimately on the profits of the corporation, and the bottom line is that it is a family “property”.
In the public sector, however, it means that the most suitable candidate fails to get a post or a promotion, and the public as a whole suffer as a consequence – not to mention the individual who, had there been no nepotism, would have won the position. Or it can mean that a less competitive bid wins a government contract at the cost of the tax payers’ money.
The independent media has revealed that:
- President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, Leo Mugabe was at the helm of the Zimbabwe football association for more than two decades during which successive sham elections were held.
- The appointments of Ripton Muzenda, the son of the late former vice president Simon Muzenda as chief executive officer and Simba Chikore, Mugabe’s son in law, as chief operating officer in 2016 had the nation talking about nepotism in the Zimbabwean public sector. The job makes him second-in-command at the ailing national airline which has been in operation for more than 70 years. The link between Air Zimbabwe and the Mugabe family is not quite clear. It currently has only three functioning aircraft.
- In May, 2017 the country woke up to the news that the veteran president had appointed his own daughter, Bona Chikore Mugabe, to the country’s media censorship board.
- Patrick Zhuwao, a nephew of the president, is the country’s current Minister of Youth, Indigenisation, and Economic Empowerment. Zhuwao, whose mother Sabina is Mugabe’s sister, is also a stakeholder in Telecel Zimbabwe, the country’s second-largest mobile phone network.
- The Cyber Security Minister Patrick Chinamasa found himself in a nepotism storm after he was accused of abusing his office to divert reforestation funds from the Forestry Commission to the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB), which is chaired by his wife, Monica.
- Barbara wife of Tourism minister Walter Mzembi’s was appointed, as Tourism Zimbabwe Patron in 2014, but eyebrows were raised, as some felt the minister may have used his clout to influence her appointment.
- LOCAL government permanent secretary, George Mlilo, was reported to have said that the ministry had discovered thousands of unqualified personnel who were corruptly employed in councils across the country.
The result is that many well-educated Zimbabweans, who could have played an important role in the development of the country, are side-tracked in this way. Timid as we are, we respond by getting out of the country to sought work elsewhere leading to brain drain from Zimbabwe. Some teachers became demotivated after being discouraged in their professional growth ladder as some promotions were done on nepotism basis that they left for other countries.Nepotism was defined as crime in Zimbabwe in back in1985 but – as you will find in the next section – the regime enforces the law selectively, targeting mostly political opponents.
Corruption has become has become Zimbabwe’s deadliest cancer, it is so pervasive even the civil servants are so arrogant that it has become a new normal. It is a cancer that is eating deep into the marrow of Zimbabwe’s social fabric and has spiralled down to all sectors of society. For example, The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers suffer from poor working conditions, a lack of training and resources, and low salaries, so corruption is common – especially at lower levels (HRR 2014).
Roadblocks are often used to extort goods or bribes from the poor desperate unemployed populace (U4, Jan. 2015). The majority of Zimbabweans now perceive the police as the most corrupt institution in the country (Afrobarometer, May 2015) although in some cases they are willing participants. The Afrobarometer survey found that one in four respondents who had contact with the ZRP had paid a bribe to obtain a service or to avoid problems.
The economy of the black market has become equal to that of the normal market. The effect of that is that even less money makes its way to the taxman resulting to less money available for government structures.
The Zimbabwean law pertaining corruption is strong, but the government primarily prosecutes individuals who have fallen out of favour with the ruling ZANU-PF party or those from the opposition. As one of the many requirements under Government of National Unity (GNU), provided by constitutional amendment No 19 – Chapter 13, Part 1 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe – the parliament of Zimbabwe established a nine member Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC). Its task was to investigate and prosecute politicians from all the political parties without fear or favour.
However, even before the commission began its work, several cases were sticking out like a sore thumb and demanding attention.
In 2010, a messy divorce involving the then Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo and his wife of 25 years, Marian, uncovered the minister’s enormous wealth, attained while earning a modest civil servants’ salary.
The documents showed that Chombo has tentacles in virtually all sectors of the economy. They included interests in several farms, mines, hunting safari lodges in Chiredzi, Hwange, Magunje and Chirundu, as well as properties in South Africa. Local properties include 75 residential and commercial stands plus 14 houses and five flats, all dotted around the country. Not to mention 15 vehicles.
After the establishment of the GNU in 2009, the then Prime Minister and current Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai called for an investigation into the controversial Joshua Nkomo Expressway deal.
The airport road construction – intended to link the Harare International Airport – soon to be re-named Robert Mugabe International Airport- and Harare city centre had been valued at a whooping US80 million, despite a similar 2001 project in Chegutu covering 77 km million costing significantly less. Adding to suspicion was the fact that the airport road is actually 20km shorter than one built in Chegutu.
The Marange diamond fields were also being plundered by a complex network of the army, ZRP, CIO, and ZANU-PF senior chefs. At the core of most criticism is that most mining ventures in the area are owned and run by key Mugabe stalwarts in the military and state security agencies. The then Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu was also alleged to have corruptly awarded mining rights to ZANU-PF cronies, and this, reports say, explains his property buying spree.
Mpofu accrued gigantic wealth from suspected corrupt deals and was said to have gone on a real estate shopping spree, buying properties in the Bulawayo area including the Ascot Race Course and a Casino. He is also said to have bought loads of properties in Vitoria Falls.
This senior ZANU-PF politician cum businessman – Orbert Mpofu – bought into one of the country’s struggling banks. The Umguza legislator’s company, Trebo and Khays (Private) Limited, was reported in august 2012 to have invested some US23 million to take over Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) – now renamed Allied Bank – which was threatened with closure after struggling to meet new minimum capital requirements.
At this rate of corruption in both public and private sectors, the ZACC – In keeping with the requirement provided by constitutional amendment No 19 – should be the busiest commission in the history of Zimbabwe. The blitz by ZACC to clamp down on corruption which has clearly gone viral was both welcome and refreshing.
However as mentioned earlier the ZACC targeted the weak and was responsible for several arrests in February 2012 that netted former Chitungwiza town clerk, Godfrey Tanyanyiwa on charges of abuse of office and fraud involving more than US700, 00. Tanyanyiwa was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison for which he was to serve an effective two and half year. The failure of ZACC to investigate cases that involve more prominent individuals – Chombo, Chiyangwa, Mpofu etc. – shows that the scourge of corruption has precipitated to some vital state organs.
It also claimed the livelihood of mainstream opposition, MDC MP for St Marys Marvellous Khumalo on allegations of misappropriating US 50, 000 from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) as well as prosecutor Moffat Makuvatsine for receiving US500 bribe to release a suspect.
Despite Mpoko’s call for its dissolution, there should be no sacred cows for the ZACC as it looks to fight corruption which has become a ways of life for many government and private sector officials. Only when prominent individuals such as cabinet ministers, governors and other senior government officials can account for their wealth will ZACC prove that it is committed to fighting corruption whole heatedly across the board.
Consequently the fundamental problem facing the country becomes the big disparity between the rich ZANU-PF elites and poor ordinary Zimbabweans, and also the high number of poor compared to the well connected rich ZANU-PF members. One of the contributions to the rich ZANU-PF elites becoming richer is the unrestricted access they have top resources and the way in which these resources are used.
The sad truth is that Zimbabwean resources are being squandered and that brings no added benefits to even the already existing infrastructure. The lack of technical knowledge and absence of the attitudes of excellence and the myopic application of plans are all examples of how riches of Zimbabwe are not being used to the people’s benefits. Often economic strategies are being implemented against all good reasons, either for the sake of the powerful ZANU-PF retaining power, or for the sake of enriching a small minority often the allies or family of the powerful.
The other scourge, cronyism, is a broader than nepotism, and it covers situations where preferences are given to the in-group – friends and colleagues. ZANU-PF has fuelled the rise of cronyism, which has seen many of those close to the ruling party, dividing up the national cake amongst themselves at the expense of the masses. In Zimbabwe, cronyism is captured in the expressions of – “The liberation struggle” or “Membership to the ruling ZANU-PF party”.
The allocation of land under the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) continues to be the most highly contested issue in Zimbabwe. The second key stage after acquiring land from the mostly white land owners was supposed to be the allocation process where the land was to be fairly redistributed to the “majority blacks”. Without regard of the formal and informal implementing bodies, directed from the top, the method used benefited ZANU-PF cronies.
This is despite the first indication that the ZANU-PF regime and the beneficiaries needed each other for different purposes: the regime wanted support for its political project, while the new beneficiaries – the “majority blacks” – wanted the state to finally give them the land that they yearned for many decades. The former used the latter. In fact, the suggestion in the international press has been that the allocation of land was permeated by cronyism, and especially that senior members of ZANU-PF were the major beneficiaries.
Needless to say the international community viewed the FTLRP as illegal from the perspective of property rights and as being racist in reverse. Nonetheless, ZANU-PF had partially suspended the rule of law whilst announcing that only ZANU-PF members and war veterans would receive land under the FTLRP. By then the program had clearly divided the Zimbabwean society.
The ZRP would stand idly by while ZANU-PF supporters violently occupied land, but then the state apparatus would arrest and punish suspected MDC affiliated individuals for their alleged crimes. Elite crony takeover was rampant. For example in 2003, 1000 settlers had to vacate a farm in Zvimba to allow the widow of Mugabe’s late nephew, Innocent Mugabe to move in. In Masvingo the police burned 1000 homes in order to allow a political crony to have a home.
Recently, even when an inquiry team of Harare City Councillors produced a report implicating Ignatius Chombo and businessman Philip Chiyangwa in an illegal acquisition of council land on the cheap, the police refused to investigate the matter. Instead the councillors were arrested and the journalists who covered the story were also arrested and harassed by the ZRP under instructions from Chiyangwa.
Mugabe’s cronyism, favouritism and nepotism have bred endemic corruption at all levels of the public sector. These ills have influence the distribution of wealth and social status which in turn is exacerbating the social unrest that we have witnessed in recent years. The public sector has now resorted to corruption related competition where unfairness, indiscipline and disrespect are the new norm. The practice has permeated virtually all institutions public and private, governmental and non-governmental.
The country has degenerated into a venial society, in which professionalism and efficiency in civil service has been replaced by indiscipline, laziness, excessive arrogance, nepotism and mediocrity. This is because nepotism naturally affects people’s behaviours and attitude towards productive work.
The combination of corruption, nepotism and cronyism has led to the mal-functioning or collapse of vital organizations such as the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Air Zimbabwe , town councils, inner city transport – Harare United -, state farms, state-controlled mining corporations, state institutions and many others because they are headed by ZANU-PF cronies.
Having reached endemic magnitudes, corruption has become only a way of life but also a principle mode for the accumulation of personal wealth. For example there has been poor service delivery in the health sector in which drugs meant for free distribution to HIV positive people were being sold at a fee by local nurses.
That said, let me now annoy you. As we have not been able to do anything about rooting out anti-democratic behaviour, perhaps, for as long as we have ZANU-PF we need to look at how best corruption, nepotism and cronyism can be made useful for the benefit of all. This is the only solution until a legitimate and dedicated government is in place to guide determined recovery.
Certainly we must take care not to advocate cronyism as a substitute for or satisfactory alternative to traditional capitalism. Nonetheless we need to somewhat consider the expropriation and externalisation of billions of Zimbabwean monies during the last decade, then ask ourselves; “what it is that can make ZANU-PF cronies re-invest at home rather than export or externalise their surplus?” Well – of course it is the presence of a local market, that is, demand, and opportunity for profit.
If cronies can re-circulate their monies – however ill gotten – in the domestic economy as opposed to externalising it, an opportunity exists for genuine transformation. Moreover, although Patrick Bond rightly attacks the Zimbabwe situations – in which his estimate 24 billion in capital flight – much of it “crony” capital – has departed the country in recent years.
This is not a comprehensive solution; conversely, an alternatively formal solution is to start focusing on teaching and inspiring principles and behaviours of democratic leadership, encouraging service rather than corruption, domination and cronyism. That recovery must include a COMPLETE OVERHAL of the health and education system, positive growth of the economy’s formal and informal sectors, THE CESSATION OF STATE SPONSORED VIOLENCE and a return to observation of public and private morality and the rule of law.
Zimbabwe would be better off without ZANU-PF; however, we have so far failed to establish a collective consciousness to fight for democracy. As such, things cannot be how we wish then to be. The solution should be to come up with a new modus operandi of political leadership and power sharing for betterment of Zimbabwe. Otherwise multiparty politics and democracy will remain games to be played on corruption, cronyism, and nepotism chessboards.
On a lighter note – This despotic regime will not last forever as has begun to violet the natural order of things and will eventually collapses under the weight of its own internal contradictions seen at the so called interface rallies. Paranoia and insecurity has plagued this despotic regime and machinations are clearly leading the despot to suspect plots by everyone, on the so called Lacoste side. Democratic activists cannot and should not wait for ZANU-PF to self-destruct.
Even if there are signs that ZANU-PF will self-destructs soon, we must take care not to let another dictator to take over. Although chanting – Mugabe Must Go – cannot on its own topple the dictator, it challenges the opposition to be smart and exploit the weaknesses that are now clear within the regime. For example it should not fight ZANU-PF on the turf that it is strongest – elections – they need to boycott and exploit its weaknesses to get the required electoral reforms.
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