Zimbabweans are being urged to throw their weight behind local anti-corruption initiatives, with the country being ranked as the most corrupt in the Southern African region.
Transparency International has released its latest corruption perception Index, with Zimbabwe being placed 163 out of a total of 176 countries around the world. The Index, which ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived, suggests that Zimbabwe's corruption record is worsening, with the country dropping nine places on the Index since last year.
The latest report puts Botswana as the least corrupt country in Southern Africa, ranking 30, followed by Namibia (58), South Africa (64), Lesotho (64), Swaziland (88), Zambia (88), Malawi (88) and Mozambique (123).
"Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all aspects of decision-making," said Transparency International in a statement. "They must prioritise better rules on lobbying and political financing, make public spending and contracting more transparent, and make public bodies more accountable."
Zimbabwe's low ranking puts it among some of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the index, which ranks Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia the bottom three.
Zimbabweans are now being urged to join the fight against corruption by supporting local efforts to stamp out the problem. This includes becoming grassroots whistleblowers and using a newly launched SMS hotline to report incidents of corruption.
The SMS hotline was launched by Transparency International Zimbabwe last month, and encourages the public to send anonymous messages about the corruption they have encountered. WitnessES and victims of corruption can send an SMS to (+263) 0775 220 700.
Precious Shumba from the Harare Residents' Trust told SW Radio Africa that Zimbabwe's corruption record will not improve until there is a united effort to fight the problem. He said corruption has become so endemic in Zimbabwean society that "handing over a bribe for anything is a norm." He added that reporting measures, like the SMS platform, were a good step towards changing the attitudes 'corroding' society.
But he warned that there is also a safety element of the SMS campaign that could put people off using it, saying: "The major challenge of this whistleblowing exercise, is will it be transparently vetted? Who has access to the numbers and who will be monitoring?"
He warned that in a country where fear is still as large an issue as corruption, many members of the public might be too afraid to have their numbers associated with weeding out corruption.