Stern measures needed to arrest tide of corruption
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. firstname.lastname@example.org