No sacred cows in tackling corruption


Zimbabwe’s parliament has brought up a very timely subject- corruption- because it is killing the country. As one legislator said, it is worse than AIDS because it kills the innocent. But parliament got it wrong from the start by exonerating some people. This is not right. There should be no sacred cows. Everyone must be made accountable.

The mover of the motion, Willias Madzimure of Kambuzuma, said something that is very important. When debating corruption, he said, the onus should not be on the public to prove that someone is corrupt, rather it should be on the accused to prove that he or she is not corrupt.

This might sound unfair as normally a person is innocent until proven guilty. But corruption is very difficult to detect especially in Zimbabwe where some cunning politicians have learnt that to get away with it, you must not be greedy. You grease hands throughout the process so that no one squeals.

To get rid of corruption therefore no one should be exonerated because every leader has been tainted with corruption. Exonerating some people reminds me about a joke often told about thieves at Mbare Musika or Renkini. The ones that yell out Chenjerai Mbavha or Basopa Amasela, are the thieves themselves. When they shout out, all the innocent people around with money or valuables indicate, one way or the other, where their money is. It becomes easy picking for the thieves.

So it does not necessarily mean that the person who is shouting zero-tolerance to corruption is not corrupt. In fact, that should be the first person to be investigated. And if cleared they can go to the top of the mountain and shout “down with corruption”.

Corruption is a cancer in Zimbabwe. It has become so entrenched that some people believe that they cannot do anything without bribing their way through even at a funeral parlour.

Worse still it is no longer scoffed at. Digging through my archives, I discovered a 1996 vulnerability survey by Transparency International Zimbabwe in which 6 percent of those interviewed said corruption promoted development.

These people argued that through corruption individual progress was achieved and as many individuals progress so will national development be achieved. Though this appeared to be a minority view, it is shared by many who many not have wished to say so because generally the people that are not corrupt- that is those that are honest- are usually are scorned. Simply out, they are stupid.

What was more disturbing was that 22 percent of the private companies and 10 percent of the non-governmental organisations interviewed felt corruption as functional.. It allowed them to get the job done. Once again, though this seemed an insignificant minority, the problem was much worse because only 18 percent of the companies outrightly said they never resorted to corruption.
What this therefore means is that there needs to be a complete about turn to end corruption, not just talk. One legislator proposed hanging. Another said Ghana had used the firing squads. Others recommended jail with property acquired through corrupt means being confiscated by the State.

Whatever the nation decides, it must be something that invokes shock. Something that will trigger fear. And it has to start at the top. No sacred cows. More importantly, it can be done.

Whoever thought in December 2008 that Zimbabwe would return to normal? It was done in one fell swoop. There were a lot of casualties. But it was done. The same can be done with corruption.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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