2 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Curtail Profligacy or the Economy Will Sink

column

Kleptocracy is a term that is applied when describing a state in which high-ranking officials take advantage of governmental corruption to extend their personal wealth and/or political power fundamentally through the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service.

The characteristics of a kleptocracy are:

The elite in society utilise political power to enrich themselves at the expense of wider social services and the general well-being of citizens.

Political power is condensed so that an elite holds the majority of control over government.

Programmes which benefit those who are not elite are subverted in order to increase the amount of money available to be shifted to the elite.

Institutions of the state squash dissent from the status-quo.

The ongoing salary-gate saga has raised questions about the maladmistration of state institutions in the country and the sincerity of government when it comes to tackling graft.

While I would not define Zimbabwe as an absolute kleptocracy, as were Mobutu Sese Seko's Congo or Sani Abacha's Nigeria, my concern is that the country faces the danger of descending into the clutches of complete kleptomania if corruption is not urgently addressed.

But the question is how did we get here? How did we get to a point where a CEO of a medical aid society earns some US$230 000 per month while the members who contribute monthly to that society cannot access basic medical services?

In a work entitled Re-Living the Second Chimurenga Fay Chung, a Zimbabwe liberation war hero and a former minister of Education argues, "Structural Adjustment saw the entry of new leaders into Zanu PF.

"These leaders had not taken part in the difficult pre-independence liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, but had joined the ruling party after it got into power in order to promote their business prospects, which remained closely linked to political patronage.

"Known as the mafikizolo [late comers], they integrated themselves into the party leadership.

"Thus by the 1990s, the new leadership within Zanu PF began to outnumber those who had been in the liberation struggle. These new leaders became filthy rich through their political connections. They, like the wealthy whites before them, tended to expatriate their wealth, rather than investing inside the country."

Now, Zanu PF held its 14th National People's Conference from December 10-14 2013 under the theme, Zim Asset: Growing the Economy for Empowerment and Employment.

Some of the notable resolutions that emerged at the conference were:

to instruct the government to ensure that food relief is available and reaches the vulnerable and needy communities throughout the country.

to urge the government to improve the living standards of the citizenry for an empowered society and a growing economy.

that both the party and the government should implement zero tolerance against corruption in all spheres of public and private life.

Based upon these resolutions, kudos to Professor Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, who unilaterally spearheaded that salary-gate exposé. The fact is that Zimbabwe has for too long blamed hostile external factors for its internal problems.

Put plainly, the salary-gate scandal has effectually buried the sanctions mantra forever. Exposing the kleptomaniac tendencies of the state is a good start that should be reinforced by transparency and accountability mechanisms within government entities in order to strengthen these institutions and as a result, to attract much-needed funding.

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