State of the Nation on International Anti-Corruption Day
As Zimbabwe joins the world in commemorating the UN International Anti Corruption day, the state of the nation in indicators provided by Corruption Perception Index (CPI) indicts us as a nation. This indictment is compounded by other indicators from reports on politically motivated violence and human rights abuses that have been unrelenting since the elections of March 29th, against both the opposition and civil society. The most recent of these incidents is the abduction of the ZPP Director, Jestina Mukoko and her colleagues as well other human rights activists.
This poor performance in governance and anti corruption is reflected in the score of 166 out of 180 countries, a ranking bestowed on Zimbabwe by TI’s 2008 CPI. This is experienced everyday by ordinary Zimbabweans who are victims of the continuously backsliding economy and social woes that include the collapse of agriculture, industry, education and health systems, pervasive corruption and crime, as well as lack of provision of basic social and public services. All this, the culmination of unchecked excesses of the executive that has manipulated the constitution for the last 30 years, extending repressive rule and impunity, while simultaneously contributing to ungovernable institutions mired with incompetence and corruption. The incompetence and corruption were felt with growing degrees over the years long before the targeted sanctions became a mantra explaining away the woes of our nation.
While the impact and effect of the sanctions, targeted or not, remains debatable, the evidence of avarice and self –aggrandizement that has led to the total ruin of our country’s governance institutions, as a result of lack of integrity, accountability and transparency in the leadership cannot be doubted as it is a lived experience that is also well documented over the 30 years of our history. The political corruption as experienced at each election, more so in the elections of 2008, March and June, and the violent events preceding and accompanying both elections have made a mockery of democracy and democratic dispensations by whatever definition. This is in essence what has earned us the pariah state status; where corruption and greed are admired rather than condemned, and the poor and vulnerable, including women and children are suffering most of all. TI Zimbabwe is gravely concerned with these consequences. As an organization TI Z views the major drivers of corruption as largely rooted in bad governance, in turn having its roots in politics of clientelism and patronage.
Evidence of excessive control of the executive is clear in the policy and legislative environment. For instance this has given the central bank too much power to govern areas that should fall in the purview of parliament, local government and other ministries, while there remains little accountability on the part of the central bank. Parliament’s oversight role has been undermined by the executive for many years as well as the political polarization of parliament. That the state of the nation through the anti corruption lens reveals cholera, a controllable water borne disease, vandalizing officers of the military and a central bank governor who has contributed enormously to the poor policy environment causing huge suffering to the masses is not surprising given the afore – going .
TI Zimbabwe points out that the freefall of Zimbabwe to ruin is now a problem bigger than the politicians of any party and requires concerted national effort. In turn this requires government leadership with the political will to put the people first by being a more responsive rather than a repressive and reactionary government. To exercise more involvement of different groups in the national strategies against corruption, and more tolerance and participation in the process of rebuilding the governance structures of our nation from the bottom up may be the only way to save the country from the free fall. Responsiveness and participation in turn, require access to information to build a culture that is centered on accountable and transparent operations of government and leadership, which accordingly requires a high degree of integrity, openness to scrutiny of designated oversight bodies like parliament, civil society, the auditor general and ombudsman, among others.
To understand how this current state of the nation has now become a part of our shameful legacy read on…
Cholera Outbreak: The Understated Governance Tragedy in Zimbabwe
The cholera pandemic has continued to wreak havoc across the country with increasing number of cases being reported everyday. Cholera has claimed more than 560 lives since its outbreak and more than 12000 cases of infection have been reported in different parts of the country. The statistics are believed to be higher as the state has allegedly desperately tried to downplay the figures, alternatively does not possess sufficient capacity to collect data from all areas that are affected. Meanwhile medical staff in most hospitals and clinics has either been on strike or has not been attending patients because there is no medication or equipment and is also poorly paid. It is therefore likely that a significant number of patients are suffering and dying in their homes.
The Cholera outbreak is sufficiently linked to the continual failure by ZINWA to supply urban dwellers with clean tap water. This example of bad governance is compounded by another, the failure by the government to timeously declare the Cholera pandemic a “national disaster” when so many lives are being lost. This has exposed the defacto irresponsibility and lack of responsiveness to the people of the present government’s. There is also a clear lack of capacity to manage such catastrophes. It took the government more than a month to acknowledge the cholera outbreak and declare it a national emergency. Neither condemnation, nor demand for accountability has been directed at ZINWA by the state when it is clear that much of the failure to provide safe and clean water to citizens at a time when the country is beleaguered by so many other challenges should be laid on ZINWA’s head.
This puts people’s lives, livelihoods and goals for sustainable development unnecessarily at risk. By not condemning institutions that fail to deliver a service the state tacitly okays poor performance or lack of performance at a time when it is crucial to harness effective delivery through retaining competent personnel by improving resources for remuneration and supply of inputs. According to some news reports ZINWA was given 18 million rands and an unspecified number of vehicles to respond to the outbreak. Citizens have a right to the public accounting of these resources as they are the direct beneficiaries. T I Zimbabwe is concerned by the manner which lack of transparency in this and other parastatals leads to lack of accountability as it disempowers the citizen’s from exercising their right to demand for a basic service that is also their human right; the right to clean water is a fundamental right. In drinking water and sanitation services every point along the water delivery chain: from policy design and budget allocations, to operations, need to be in the public domain. Access to information concerning the water delivery chain works hand in hand with the delivery of a transparent and accountable service. Increasing citizen participation may also improve the friendliness of the policies, basing them on affordability, accessibility, gender equity and protection of vulnerable peoples, such as women and children who are most affected by the human consequence of a water crisis.
The persistent water shortages and the poor sewer management system, evident in all the cities and towns taken over by ZINWA have made the majority of residents vulnerable to cholera attacks. In most high-density suburbs, residents have become accustomed to raw sewerage flowing through their doorsteps. TI-Z has stated in the past that this lack of accountability would lead to disastrous consequences. ZINWA and the government owe it to the people of Zimbabwe to own up to the problems around the supply of safe drinking water and sanitation, taking conciliatory and corrective measures immediately. It is quite disturbing to note that in all this time, authorities at ZINWA have remained unresponsive knowing very well that they are at the center of the problem. The attitude of business as usual is unacceptable. The most plausible action government can take at this point is to take heed of the people’s voice and relieve ZINWA of the mandate to manage water and sewer reticulation and charge city councils with a mandate to fundraise directly for their own services, before more catastrophic disasters occur. The cholera outbreak is only a symptom of deep-rooted governance crisis characterized by poor design and implementation of policies and statutes, corruption in the form of abuse of office and power and the politicization of municipal services. The overwhelming effects are felt in environmental degradation, health services as water pollution leads to water borne diseases that can be avoided. Millennium development goals such as health for all by 2015 are also directly affected. A quick visit to the local hospitals like Harare Central Hospital (Kugomo) is an attestation to these facts.
Social unrest as soldiers ‘run amok’?
As the governance crisis in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, there are growing fears of social unrest after recent events in Harare, specifically soldiers protesting, looting, attacking foreign currency dealers and clashing with the police in the process. Civilians joined the looting of shops and for a good half hour, there was pandemonium and mayhem in Harare’s city centre. The soldiers, especially the lower ranks, have not been spared by the economic hardships in the country and have a legitimate right to express their grievances. TI Z would like to emphatically condemn the manner in which the alleged grievances relayed causing a state of anarchy and unprecedented unruly behavior by security forces in a disturbing ways on many levels. The soldiers can direct their grievances to appropriate authorities like the RBZ (for the cash crisis), the President’s office or the Joint Operations Command (for poor remuneration) not to turn them on unsuspecting, unarmed civilians and business operators.
This unrest has sparked speculation on the intentions of the army and, or the ruling party. Again TI Z warns that a society operating on speculation, rumor and conjecture is a fertile ground for conflict and instability. Many studies show that corruption, conflict and general mayhem thrive in socio - political environments where there is no access to information and transparency in all public interest issues. The military and police are vital institutions in the overall governance structure whose role is national security and internal crime fighting, peace keeping, law enforcement respectively. Once the interaction and interface between state on the one hand, and military and police on the other exceeds the bounds recognized in peace time norms and standards then it suggests that we are no longer in a time of peace, but a time of conflict. Although over the years the distinction between internal and external security has blurred the roles of the police and military; largely because of the growth of transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, and international terrorism, this does not transcend to political presence of the military on domestic peace keeping and crime fighting processes.
These recent developments are symptomatic of the whole governance crisis and breakdown in the rule of law. Unfortunately, the world, particularly SADC leaders have watched and ignored, as the crisis deepens. When soldiers who are supposed to be the security fallback of the nation protest in the streets it’s a sign of collapse at the centre – a clear crisis of governance with many unsavory implications.
There is a need to build up the police and military as institutions in their roles, training them in the areas of human rights and policing; corruption and policing. In our environment characterized by polarized media, polarized parliament and political parties, there is a need to make sure through policy that any internal convergence of police and military is only directed at promoting the security of citizens from crimes and abuses of state, companies and individuals.
NO to piecemeal solutions Governor!
The financial sector’s alleged contribution to social and economic problems, as faced by Zimbabweans today are too broad to be solved by the piecemeal solutions being proffered by the Governor of the central bank. TI-Z strongly condemns the selective application of monetary policies by the central bank, which resulted in banks allegedly carting trunks full of cash to military barracks where largely senior ranking soldiers receive more cash than the daily limits imposed on every other citizen. Last week (week ending 30/11/2008) for instance soldiers in ZNA and Air Force were reported to have received between 15 and 20 million Zimbabwe dollars in the comfort of their bases while the rest of the citizens struggled to get a paltry $500 000 from the banks which can hardly buy a sweet. The disturbances caused by the military police in town are also an indication that this preferential treatment was also not across the board within the army itself. This is an insult to the Zimbabwean people’s conscience and dignity.
On Thursday, the Governor decided to deal with the cash problems “once and for all” by allowing individuals to withdraw $100 million once per week. Before end of day, this decision had done enough damage to the economy and to the welfare of the people as prices quadrupled to catch up with the sky rocketing exchange rate in the parallel market. On Thursday alone, the Zimbabwe dollar fell from about two million per US dollar to more than 10 million per US dollar, meaning that for USD100, one gets 1 billion Zim dollars making the newly printed 100 million dollar note valueless as it can only buy goods worth 20 million the previous day (Wednesday). This also comes at a time when most supermarkets have been licensed to sell goods in foreign currency. The paradox of this all is that more than 90% of Zimbabweans including government employees, earn their income in local Zimbabwe dollars and cannot easily access foreign currency. What Zimbabwe needs are holistic policies which effectively address the underlying economic problems in the country.
Transparency International Zimbabwe is the independent national chapter of Transparency International; a global movement against corruption whose headquarters is in Berlin. We exist to promote good governance by fostering a culture of accountability, transparency and integrity through research based advocacy, public education/awareness raising, policy advice and monitoring.
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