Stern mea­sures needed to ar­rest tide of cor­rup­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion -

Zim­babwe’s news me­dia are cur­rently awash with sto­ries about some se­nior na­tional lead­ers who are ei­ther be­ing tried in law courts for em­bez­zling or mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing pub­lic funds, or those be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions. Sus­pects range from Zimra to some top­most govern­ment min­is­ters. It is a very un­for­tu­nate na­tional devel­op­ment as it has cre­ated a na­tion that is per­me­ated through and through with cor­rup­tion and thiev­ery.

The sav­ing fac­tor is that doggedly work­ing against that neg­a­tive devel­op­ment is the Zim­babwe An­tiCor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion, a con­sti­tu­tional body whose re­spon­si­bil­ity is to iden­tify cor­rup­tion cul­prits and to rec­om­mend their ar­rest by the po­lice.

Two fac­tors con­trib­ute to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of theft in gen­eral and cor­rup­tion in par­tic­u­lar in Zim­babwe. One fac­tor is the so­cio-eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, and the other fac­tor is the law en­force­ment process, in­clud­ing the courts of law.

Zim­babwe was born out of bar­rels of guns, and tears and blood of men and women who for­sook rel­a­tive safety and com­fort for the harsh and cruel bush to re­take the land from a white mi­nor­ity set­tler com­mu­nity whose an­ces­tors had vi­o­lently grabbed it from its indige­nous own­ers.

While fight­ing, Zim­bab­weans es­poused so­cial­ism, an ide­ol­ogy that could have ef­fec­tively put the na­tional means of pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion in the hands of the com­mon peo­ple as op­posed to those of the po­lit­i­cal elite.

So­cial­ism in a broad and gen­eral sense is re­garded as rad­i­cal so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally. How­ever, in mod­ern so­cio-eco­nomic terms and ap­pli­ca­tion, it im­plies the sub­sti­tu­tion of pub­lic prop­erty in land and in cap­i­tal for pri­vate prop­erty in these pro­duc­tion in­stru­ments.

Mod­ern so­cial­ism is com­pletely demo­cratic, and it strongly opposes classes cre­ated by dis­par­ity in the dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth that leads to priv­i­leged so­ciopo­lit­i­cal classes.

Notwith­stand­ing Zim­babwe’s tra­di­tional ethos, that is to say the char­ac­ter­is­tic at­ti­tude and spirit of var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties to­wards na­tional as­sets, a sys­tem of gov­er­nance that cre­ates a class of elites leads to cor­rup­tion and thiev­ery.

The elite tend to abuse their po­si­tions and priv­i­leges to en­rich them­selves; the masses, mean­while, feel hard done and ei­ther re­volt, de­stroy or loot pub­lic and pri­vate prop­erty. It is a case of the ob­scenely rich ver­sus the grind­ingly poor.

Such a sys­tem cre­ates so­cio-eco­nomic classes, and leads to a “they and we” at­ti­tude. Mean­while, a so­cial­ist mode of in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion re­sults in “an in­dus­try of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple.”

That is the best type of gov­er­nance for poverty erad­i­ca­tion at best, and al­le­vi­a­tion at least. When so­cial­ism is cou­pled with a fed­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion, the re­sult is democ­racy at its best, by which we mean a so­cio-eco­nomic sys­tem that em­pow­ers peo­ple po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally at grass­roots level.

That was what we said we were strug­gling for, in fact. Such a sys­tem re­duces the level of cor­rup­tion by pub­lic ser­vants and thiev­ery by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als. We should note that it does not ut­terly elim­i­nate those two neg­a­tive prac­tices – thiev­ery and cor­rup­tion – but re­duces their rate of oc­cur­rence.

To deal with these two vices more or less ef­fec­tively, the law must be ruth­lessly ef­fi­ca­cious both cor­rec­tion­ally and puni­tively, with­out ig­nor­ing its re­tribu­tive role, which is vir­tu­ally syn­ony­mous with the puni­tive role.

It is not help­ful at all for law courts to give thieves and other crim­i­nals jail terms most of which (or some of which) are ei­ther sus­pended or are in the form of com­mu­nity ser­vices. Such sen­tences may have a de­ter­rent ef­fect on some of the con­victed peo­ple, but cer­tainly not on would-be crim­i­nals.

A good jail sen­tence is that which de­ters would-be law break­ers, and not that which is viewed with dis­dain.

Mean­while, an ef­fi­cient law en­force­ment sys­tem com­prises well trained per­son­nel whose role is first and fore­most the preven­tion of crime, then the timely in­ves­ti­ga­tion of crim­i­nal or sus­pected crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

Timely pros­e­cu­tion is an­other char­ac­ter­is­tic of an ef­fi­cient law en­force­ment process.

A coun­try’s set of laws (par­tic­u­larly those that deal with theft, fraud, forgery, bur­glary, gam­bling and any other form of dis­hon­esty in which one party is un­justly or vi­o­lently de­prived of some prop­erty or ser­vice) must take they coun­try’s so­cio-eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment into ob­jec­tive con­sid­er­a­tion.

One of the re­sults of a so­cio-eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment char­ac­terised by a high un­em­ploy­ment level is a high crime in­ci­dence. The type of crime is gen­er­ally de­ter­mined by the level of lit­er­acy; the higher the lit­er­acy rate, the higher the in­ci­dence of “whitecol­lar” crime: fraud, forgery, cor­rup­tion such as graft, con­man­ship and pick­pock­et­ing.

In com­mu­ni­ties where the lit­er­acy rate is rel­a­tively low, the in­ci­dence of vi­o­lent crime is higher, and it in­cludes armed rob­beries, mug­gings, stock theft and bur­glar­ies.

So­cial­ists are of the con­sid­ered opin­ion that the crime in­ci­dence is lower in coun­tries where the so­cial­ist’s mode of pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion pre­vails than where the pri­vate en­ter­prise free mar­ket sys­tem ob­tains. This is of course, de­bat­able as there is gen­er­ally bit­ter ri­valry be­tween the two ide­olo­gies.

In Zim­babwe, we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a fright­en­ing wave of theft and abuse of pub­lic funds, the largest amount be­ing $15 bil­lion of the Marange di­a­monds rev­enue re­vealed by Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe him­self.

That mas­sive theft must have been com­mit­ted by an in­di­vid­ual or in­di­vid­u­als who be­lieve that their per­sonal in­ter­ests are much more im­por­tant than those of the na­tion of Zim­babwe at large.

If law en­force­ment per­son­nel are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter, as they should be, they should ag­gres­sively and ur­gently do so rather than adopt a leisurely or lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach as that may send an ut­terly wrong mes­sage to the na­tion.

The au­thor of this ar­ti­cle is of the opin­ion that very firm and un­equiv­o­cal mea­sures need to be taken ur­gently to ar­rest this neg­a­tive so­cio-eco­nom­i­cally habit be­fore it be­comes a cul­ture.

Those with the re­spon­si­bil­ity plus the author­ity to take ac­tion would be fail­ing in their re­spec­tive of­fices if they do not act now.

Mean­while, it is now past the hour when the peo­ple of Zim­babwe re­alise that a highly cen­tralised gov­er­nance can­not ef­fi­ciently deal with their daily needs and prob­lems.

We need to take power to make and im­ple­ment de­ci­sions to the grass­roots, to the peo­ple at vil­lage level for Zim­babwe to move ef­fec­tively into ma­te­rial com­forts of the 21st cen­tury, and also be able to iden­tify our nat­u­ral re­sources, and to ben­e­fit from them.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a re­tired, Bulawayo - based jour­nal­ist. He can be con­tacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sg­wakuba@gmail.com

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