25 June 2019

Zimbabwe: Unpacking Corruption As an Economic Vice

According to the Cambridge Advance Leaner's Dictionary corruption is defined as "an illegal, immoral or dishonest behaviour, especially by people in position of authority or power". In Risk Management corruption is defined as "the act of directly or indirectly accepting or offering to give or receiving a bribe".

In Zimbabwe, corruption has been a serious economic vice that is threatening both the lives of human nature and the performance Industries. In the above definitions one can observe a symbiotic relationship that exists between the two definitions in that they both are exposing immoral behaviours of the Zimbabwean citizens in general and those in positions of authority in particular.

It is said corruption as an evil activity involves two individuals or actors; the one who demands a bribe and the one who agrees to give the bribe. It must be noted that corruption cannot take place in the absence of the actors agreeing to commit themselves into engaging in a corrupt activity. It is therefore against the above definitions and narrative that a country can be characterised as a low, medium and high investment risk nation due to the levels of corruption. It must be clear in people's minds that allowing corruption to become a culture is a recipe for economic decadence. Once corruption becomes a culture whose DNA is passed on from generation to generation then the citizens must forget about living a better life.

In Zimbabwe, it has become almost impossible to effectively fight corruption. This is slowly putting the country as an investment risk nation. Once a country is seen as an investment risk nation then it becomes difficult to lure meaningful capital investment as investors are not keen to invest in a corrupt environment.

While it is true that those in position of authority or power in both government and private sector trigger corruption; the citizens are also serious players who make corruption thrive. Government officials and business executives are in the majority of cases accused of engaging themselves in corrupt business deals that end up affecting the economy. However, it is an open secret too that the general citizens are involved in corruption by way of agreeing to pay a bribe price whether in monetary terms or otherwise. There is a growing culture of citizens spreading the talk that if one reports corruption by "big fish" it's a recipe for death or disappearance. I therefore exhort citizens to abandon such myopic thinking and fight corruption head-on.

Sadly, it is us the citizens who, after spreading falsehoods of people disappearing or getting killed after reporting corruption, are quick to accuse, judge and exonerate some of the corrupt actors before they even go to courts for trial. The media too complicates the whole process of fighting corruption by unnecessarily becoming impartial as they write about corrupt activities.

It is my humble observation that investigating officers of corrupt or fraud activities get heavily influenced by media and public information. Once such influence resides in investigators, the investigation results become flawed. This, in many instances has resulted in many cases of corruption being thrown out of courts for lack of incriminating evidence. It must be noted that citizens will have contributed negatively by publicising prejudicial information on both social, print and electronic media. It is therefore, important for citizens to note that while it is exciting to talk about corruption care must be taken not to give out misleading information that may result in wrong decisions being taken. Once wrong decisions are taken on the strength of investigators giving those in positions of authority half-baked reports, the integrity of the organisation or government will be severely tarnished. Ironically, it will be us, the citizens who will be quick to blame senior business executives and Government officials of siding with some corrupt actors. Thus, in my view such a scenario does not help to fight corruption effectively.

While Zimbabwe's economy is severely affected by imposed illegal sanctions, the poor economic performance is exacerbated by the high levels of corruption that exist in both the public, private business and political circles.

In all these scenarios, citizens as the majority who pay bribes are also evil players scuttling effective corruption fighting. While one is attempted to strongly agree that some officials in VID, Registrar General Offices, and the police on road blocks etc could be corrupt, the citizens who agree to pay the bribes are also corrupt. These officials cannot ask to be paid bribes corruptly by themselves. The government and private sector officials ask for bribes from citizens who then oblige by paying the bribe fee. Both corrupt parties intend to benefit from the corrupt practice, but unfortunately the economy and ignorant citizens suffer.

At Government offices, the officials are corrupt in asking citizens to pay a bribe in order to be rendered a services. In supermarkets officials are corrupt to be asking citizens to pay a bribe in order to get basic commodities which the shop officials horde to create unofficial shortages. Inadvertently, the citizens in both cases are also corrupt in agreeing to pay a bribe to an official who is on a government or private business payroll; employed to offer such services to citizens.

It is thus my humble feeling that before citizens agree to stop payment of bribes and reporting those asking for bribes corruption will be difficult to eliminate even when there is a change of Government. It is also my humble observation that using corruption, rather than exposing it, for gaining political mileage, might be a weak strategy that may turn against those doing so if ever they get into positions of authority or power. Thus my clarion call is for us all as citizens to be fearless in exposing and fighting corruption for the better of our economy and social wellbeing.

Dr Panganai Kahuni is a political socio-economic commentator with a military research background and a diplomat in the southern region. He writes on his own accord.

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