Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Corruption nail in the economy’s coffin

Corruption nail in the economy’s coffin

Friday, 29 July 2011 11:37

Eric Bloch

THERE are many nails in the coffin of the desperately needed  recovery of 
the  distressed Zimbabwean economy.  They range from the endless political 
instability to the  destructive mouthings of the Minister of Indigenisation 
and Economic Empowerment, Saviour  Kasukuwere; the dismal circumstances of 
most parastatals and their consequentialiy  inadequate and erratic service 
delivery; the recurrent governmental authorities’ disregard for property and 
human rights; the disrespect for international and national laws; to the 
insolvency of government  absence of capitalisation of the central bank.
They also include gross money market illiquidity and the financial 
instability of many in banking institutions, the economically 
counterproductive customs tariffs impairing the operations of industry, and 
the gargantuan divide between employers’ and labour’s income.  These are but 
a few of the ongoing drivers of Zimbabwe’s distraught economic 

One of the most pronounced of the numerous ills that afflict the economy and 
jeopardise substantive recovery is the magnitude of corruption that has 
become endemic in Zimbabwe, and is continually intensifying. Most 
Zimbabweans are inherently honest, but when a man’s stomach is continuously 
rumbling from hunger and his children are ceaselessly crying because of the 
pangs of starvation, that inherent honesty disappears. In addition to those 
driven to corrupt and dishonest practices by extreme poverty, there is that 
minority (usually already well-endowed with assets) driven by intense 
avarice to enhance their already substantial wealth.

Although the former’s rationale for resorting to corrupt and unlawful 
practices can be understood, despite the criminality and nationally adverse 
consequences thereof, the unlawful self-enrichment acts of the latter can in 
no manner be even remotely justified.

The greatest tragedy of Zimbabwe’s widespread corruption is the extent to 
which it contributes to ongoing economic morass and resultant suffering for 
millions of the populace, which in turn contributes to yet further 
intensification of corrupt practices by even greater numbers.  So widespread 
has corruption become that I recall a recent discussion between myself and a 
government minister wherein he said: “By now there are only two honest 
people left in Zimbabwe”. I responded: “Really? Me and who else?” to which 
he had the grace to look embarrassed and to remain silent!

To a very great degree, corruption exists within the corridors of 
government, in several different forms, resulting in its ongoing 
insufficiency of funds to service national needs.  A few of the known 
corrupt circumstances and practices prevailing are:

An estimated 75 000 ghost workers in the employ of the state, which 
means that various civil servants or their hierarchy are enriching 
themselves with the salaries and wages of those non-existent employees. 
Even if each of the fictitious civil servants is paid a meagre US$150 per 
month, that represents a misappropriation from the fiscus of US$135 million 
each year.  Especially disturbing is that there were governmental 
disclosures of this  criminal circumstance more than four months ago, but as 
yet there has been no public statement of requisite action being taken to 
curb the fraud and bring the culprits to book.
Various government ministers have intimated beliefs that there are 
diverse civil servants, including many employed at senior levels, who 
recurrently make claims for reimbursement for expenditures allegedly 
incurred in the fulfillment of their duties (inclusive of travel and 
subsistence expenses), when such expenditures were either not incurred, or 
were unrelated to the claimants’ duties.
Countless industrial, commercial and services enterprises have been 
subjected to demands, for payments (secretly effected), or other benefits in 
kind in consideration for the award of tenders and contracts.  Where the 
private sector disgracefully succumbs to such demands, the attendant cost 
inevitably impacts upon the tender or contract prices, thereby increasing 
government’s expenditures and its consequential fiscal deficits.
It cannot be credibly disputed that  public servants use governmental 
supplies for private purposes.  By way of example, hundreds (if not more) of 
children of government employees can be seen using stationery for school 
purposes, which stationery is clearly meant for government use. 
Undoubtedly, many will also uplift for themselves other consumables such as 
toilet paper, tea, coffee, sugar, soap, detergents and other cleaning 
materials. Equally, they unhesitatingly use their employer’s telephones to 
make personal calls within the country, region or internationally.
Those who do expropriate such goods and services perceive them to be 
legitimate employment perks, notwithstanding the absence of any contracted 
rights to those goods and services.  They will similarly seek to justify to 
themselves the use of government vehicles for private purposes (and 
sometimes even for illicit taxi services). In so justifying they may contend 
that the attendant costs to the state are minimal, but cumulatively across 
the spectrum of the civil service the cost to the exchequer is very 
considerable, further intensifying the fiscal deficit.
It is an equally corrupt practice of various public servants to utilise 
confidential information gained through their employment for soliciting 
bribes, prejudicing the state, private enterprise, or the population at 

Were all those practices to be markedly contained, the state would not 
endlessly incur unsustainable deficits, would not have to resort to 
punitively highly taxation measures, would be able to address vitally 
essential infrastructural needs, and could restore Zimbabwe’s international 

Tragically, these incalculable, untenable, corrupt practices are not unique 
to the public sector, but are also very prevalent in all facets of the 
private sector, be it industry, commerce or otherwise.

Ranging from soliciting and receiving secret payoffs for awards of 
contracts, to the theft of raw materials, stocks, tools, other goods, and 
consumables, many private sector employees are as criminally immoral and 
corrupt as are many public servants.  The result is that the viability and 
survival of enterprises is in jeopardy as operational costs soar, 
consequentially impacting upon selling prices and hence, upon inflation.

If the Zimbabwean economy is not to be buried, one of the many nails that 
must be removed from the coffin is substantial containment of the pronounced 
corruption that ails the country’s public and private sectors.


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