Are Africans, inherently, incorrigibly corrupt?

HARARE - Is Africa a lost cause? Are Africans inherently and incorrigibly corrupt? Is Africa a forsaken continent?

These are some of the questions that invariably cross my mind as I frequently ponder and agonise about the scourge of corruption in Zimbabwe.

In my capacity as deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs and chair of the ministry's anti-corruption committee, I have come face-to-face with the ravages of unprecedented corruption that permeates the entire fabric of our justice delivery system.

The system is completely and absolutely rotten.

It stinks. But I am not about to give up on my beloved motherland.

When my principal called me into his office at Harvest House one chilly morning in June, 2010 and told me that he was going to appoint me deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, he made it very clear to me that I was moving into a tough territory and that I had to be strong and focused.

I promised my principal that I was going to do my ultimate best to ensure that some modicum of respectability and decency was restored in our justice delivery system.

Whether or not I have successfully and effectively managed to discharge my mandate is not for me to judge.
Let the people of Zimbabwe be the judges. I will leave the task of validation and verification to the people of Zimbabwe.

In the interim, I will continue to monitor and evaluate the success (or lack of it), of the systems that we have put in place to make sure that corruption in the justice delivery system is not only identified; but that it is also promptly curbed and ultimately eliminated.

The enormity of the task before us cannot, of course, be under estimated. But then for some of us, defeat and/or surrender has never been on the agenda.

Ultimately, we will triumph. Many a time and indeed, at various public fora, I have passionately spoken against corruption.

My stint in government has enabled me to appreciate the full impact of the scourge of corruption in our nation.

It is a fact that corruption has ravaged the entire spectrum of life in our country. Sadly, I have to acknowledge that there is corruption everywhere.

There is corruption in the church, there is corruption within political parties and there is corruption in just about every facet of our lives.

The tragedy of it all is that government has not taken a very firm and robust stance against the scourge of corruption.

We have the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission ( Zacc) which otherwise is made up of men and women of honour and integrity.

However, we have dismally failed to adequately resource and empower this very essential tool for fighting corruption.

Some powerful but rogue politicians, frequently and unashamedly, interfere with the work of the anti-corruption commission.

Commissioners are sometimes literally dictated to regarding whom to and whom not to investigate.

At the end of the day, the big fish swim away whilst the small fish get fried. Such is the circus of the anti-graft fight in Zimbabwe.

The bigger you are the more likely it is for you to escape the anti-corruption dragnet.
We might change governments with the same frequency with which we change our underwear but nothing will fundamentally change unless we are serious about eliminating the scourge of corruption.

We have politicians and civil servants who, just a few years ago, were virtual paupers with very little or nothing behind their names.

All of a sudden, these people are now leading swanky lifestyles that do not at all match with their earnings.

These shameless people now lead life on the fast lane although they do not run any viable business to justify their new-found opulence.

Mansions and other state-of-the-art buildings are quickly taking shape in some of Harare's leafy suburbs and when you enquire about the owners of these grandiose structures, you will get a list of the who is who amongst politicians and other government bureaucrats then agonise and wonder where all the money is coming from in a country that is virtually a basket case; with unemployment estimated at about 85 percent and with about 80 percent of the population living in abject poverty; that is on less than $2 per day.

Something, of course, is fundamentally wrong somewhere.

Why should we have an island of opulence in a big sea of poverty?

Lest the readers misconstrue my argument. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, arguing that people shouldn't live in luxury. No. Not at all.

If anything, I am a very firm believer in the legitimate and honest accumulation of wealth. If the truth be told, I hate being poor.

What I am against is the corrupt and illegitimate accumulation of wealth. This is not good for Africa.
It is not good for Zimbabwe, either.

Africa is a continent of about 1,1 billion people; more than 80 percent of whom live in abject poverty.

On the other hand, Africa has got more billionaires than Asia. How then do you explain such apparent mismatch?

Zimbabwe is fast turning into a typical post-colonial African failed state. We have plenty diamonds juxtaposed with plenty poverty.

Our diamond sales average about $60 million per month and we are a very small nation of about 14 million people.

Unbelievably, we cannot even generate enough electricity for our own consumption.

Our public roads are pot-holed and street lights are virtually nonexistent.

Generally, our infrastructure is decaying but we are host to almost every mineral that one can think of; from gold, platinum and now, diamonds.

Is it therefore true that diamonds are forever? I think they are not.

Public works contracts are manipulated and grossly over-priced.
For instance, it has taken almost 10 years to complete a small bridge across Manyame river near Norton.

It has also taken more than 10 years to complete the dualisation of the Harare Airport Road. Harare International Airport itself is poorly and dimly lit.

It does not compare favourably to any modern airport in Africa or elsewhere. We have run down Air Zimbabwe. From having a tradition of caring, now Air Zimbabwe truly has acquired a tradition of scaring.
Ian Smith left 14 modern aircraft at Air Zimbabwe at independence in April, 1980. Now, I doubt if Air Zimbabwe has got three fully-functional aircraft.

National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), has also been vandalised and run down.

As a young boy at Fletcher High School in Gweru in the late 1970s, Dabuka marshalling yard was one of the most advanced and sophisticated railway marshalling yards this side of the equator.

Now, Dabuka is a complete ramshackle; bearing true testimony to years of corruption and neglect. Such has been the legacy of post-independence Zimbabwe.

To add insult to injury, NRZ workers have not been paid for the past five months.

Corruption is deadlier than “illegal” sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Britain and her allies.
We have some government ministers who were simple, poor lecturers just a few years ago.

Now, these greedy fat cats boast of ownership of several immovable properties and farms, complete with horses and all.

These are hopeless charlatans who have never run any viable business in their entire lives.

And now they are multimillionaires. A new Zimbabwe should promptly investigate these kleptocrats, repossess looted public assets and of course, ensure that these thieves make a beeline to Chikurubi.

Countries that have developed economically take a very firm stance against corruption. Look at China and all the other South-East Asian economic tigers.

If you steal from the people, you quickly go to jail. Plain and simple. In Zimbabwe, it is a dog's breakfast.

Looters and daylight thieves are celebrated and “honoured” as revolutionaries. This is a real,unmitigated shame.

We should focus on more than just merely changing governments.

The task ahead of us is,indeed, daunting and onerous. We need men and women with the conviction to tackle corruption head on.

Going forward, it has to be business unusual. Anything short of that will spell doom for Zimbabwe. - Obert Gutu

*Obert Gutu is the senator for Chisipite in Harare. He is also the MDC Harare provincial spokesperson as well as the deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs. He is also the Africa Heritage Society Goodwill Ambassador for Justice and Messenger of Peace.

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