Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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White-collar crime ails economy

White-collar crime ails economy

October 12, 2012 in Opinion

AS often stated in this column, there are many causes of Zimbabwe’s severe 
economic problems.

Eric Bloch Column

Most of the economic morass stems from the ruling politicians’ penchant for 
pursuing destructive policies. These range from deterring much-needed 
foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic investment, to gross fiscal 
mismanagement and abuse.

We also have counterproductive taxation measures, recurrent confrontations 
with other countries (most of which could provide developmental aid), 
negative policies in assuring enterprises, residents and tourists of 
security. There is also failure to resuscitate fiscus-bleeding parastatals 
plus destruction of the agricultural foundation of the economy. These are a 
few of the contributors to the decimation of the economy, and the 
concomitant misery for the Zimbabwean majority.

Another economic affliction is the growth of corruption and white-collar 
crime in Zimbabwe. (I recall travelling from Bulawayo to Harare on a then 
operational Air Zimbabwe flight, sitting next to a leading Zimbabwean 

He asked why I was travelling to Harare, to which I replied that I was going 
to attend a conference on corruption at which I would make a presentation. 
The politician replied: “That’s a very good thing, for by now there are 
only two honest people left in Zimbabwe.” My response was, “Really? Me and 
who else?”

Not all Zimbabweans are dishonest and corrupt, but the number guilty of such 
practices is increasing all the time.

Most Zimbabweans are inherently honest and seek to avoid corrupt practices, 
but tragically this is progressively changing. There is no greater trigger 
to the abandonment of honesty and of recourse to crime than when one’s 
children are often crying from hunger. Many children suffer from 
malnutrition, and cannot access healthcare and decent education due to their 
parents’ plight.

In desperation, the poverty-stricken turn to crime and corrupt practices. At 
the same time, there are many who are increasingly determined not to join 
the ranks of the impoverished, thus they resort to accumulating great 
wealth. These are mostly politicians, corporate executives, managerial 
personnel, and others who have found opportunities of circumventing 
provisions of law.

Aiding and abetting the growing tendency to corruption is that to an 
increasing extent, the principles of good governance are being disregarded 
by government, its parastatals and other business enterprises. There is 
mere lip service to governance principles as less and less are observing the 
principles. In part this is attributable to the brain drain suffered by 
Zimbabwe over the past 15 years, motivated by the declining economic 
environment, and the deterioration in central and local government services.

Consequently, senior and management personnel were replaced by inexperienced 
personnel with limited knowledge of the fundamentals of good governance and 
management. Due to cost containment necessitated by distressed economic 
circumstances, many enterprises could not afford the services of external 
auditors, whilst others cut the operations of internal audit departments. 
This created an enabling environment for white-collar crime.

Within the public sector, highlights of corrupt practices include the 
disclosure that government had about 40 000 “ghost workers”.

These were alleged, non-existent persons in the employ of various 
ministries, whose salaries are enjoyed by those who created the fictitious 
workers. This major white collar crime was exposed only after external 
auditors had been engaged by the Ministry of Finance.

If the amount allegedly paid to each such imaginary public servant was a 
basic salary of US$150 per month, this would mean the perpetrators were 
stealing US$6 million a month (equating to US$72 million dollars per annum), 
a significant contributor to government’s fiscal deficits.

Other white collar crimes include those by many in government, parastatals, 
and those private sector enterprises who evade prescribed purchasing 
procedures. They ensure supplies and services are sourced from suppliers who 
secretly pay the perpetrators of the procedural evasions secret, undisclosed 
commissions; such amounts are concealed in the prices charged.

Even when prima facie tender procedures are applied, the culprits often 
manage to circumvent or distort those procedures, ensuring tenders are 
awarded to pre-selected suppliers who pay them hidden “gratuities”.

Often, those who resort to such white collar crimes are of high social 
standing, intelligence and authority, both in the public and private 
sectors. They find ways of committing undetected fraud, embezzlement and 
insider trading. In so doing they exploit state-of-the-art technologies 
(especially computer systems), falsify paperwork and abuse positions of 

Consequences of corruption include inflated fiscal deficits, greater losses 
for parastatals and many private sector enterprises, often resulting in 
their liquidation. This also has the effect of increased prices to 
consumers, thus stimulating inflation.

The magnitude of white-collar crimes and their consequences are yet another 
deterrent to investors, and a major contributor to continuing economic 


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