LONDON - It has been long established that a correlation exists between poverty and corruption.
Zimbabwe falls in the category of poor countries, with little hope of economic improvement.
While the government is anticipating a GDP growth of 6,2 percent, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a modest 3,6 percent this year. The World Bank forecasts GDP growth rate to be three percent.
The promised salary increments will result in the lowest-paid civil servant earning $375, up from $297 — a rise of a mere $78. Yet the poverty datum line is $505.
All factors considered, Zimbabwe is a poor nation, although some of the poverty is self-induced. Transparency International Zimbabwe (Tiz) claimed the country was losing $55 million a day — translating to $10 billion over the past five years, through corruption.
The other effect of corruption is that it weakens the very institutions charged with combating it. While disturbing, it should not surprise us that corruption is rampant within one of our key social institutions — the police.
A police force is charged with monitoring deviance and exercising social control.
However, it is common knowledge that ZRP officers have abandoned these functions, turning into deviants themselves.
Traffic police officers manning checkpoints, in particular, have been known, for a long time now, to routinely take bribes from motorists.
So rampant is the phenomenon that the Anti-Corruption Trust (Act) of southern Africa claimed the ZRP was the most corrupt force in the region.
However, this decadence should be put into context.
With mega salaries, and measly increments, while executives enjoy huge perks, what do we expect?
I am, of course, not condoning corruption but its easy to understand why these officers would be tempted to commit such acts. Corruption has no greater partner than poverty.
Poverty puts our moral and professional rectitude to the test. And under such circumstances, most of the time we fail it.
In situations of long-term poverty — presented with the choice between upholding ethical and moral conduct, on one hand and satisfying need, on the other — the latter often becomes the dominant animus.
Incidents of corruption among police officers in developed countries are far lesser because they enjoy better standards of living, with robust oversight mechanisms to clamp down on the practice.
Having said that, it would be painting a false picture to suggest that corruption is entirely motivated by pressing need.
Corruption occurs at both ends of the social spectrum. Rich people have also been involved in corrupt activities.
One of the totemic scandals of our time, Willowgate, for instance, did not involve people we can classify as poor.
These were fairly well-to-do government ministers.
The self-rewarding of mega-salaries exposed in recent months has also involved people at the top of the social strata — corporate executives. Corrupt ministers whom President Robert Mugabe has refused to name or act against are not indigent.
So corruption is not only a product of need but greed as well. In fact, corruption of the “greed” type is quite abhorrent because it exacerbates poverty.
If revenue from diamonds, for example, profits a crafty few, the result is that the government fails in its distributive function that should benefit the rest of society and lift living standards.
If living standards are low, people become susceptible to unscrupulous means of survival.
So the challenge we have as a society is to combat both need and greed. Tackling “need” means tackling poverty.
We cannot reduce corruption if we do not improve the economy and lift people’s living standards. Combating corruption also entails strengthening and empowering institutions charged with monitoring deviance.
Whether the corruption is of the “need” or “greed” type, it should attract retribution.
If it is under-funded and un-empowered, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) becomes just a window-dressing institution for a society that wants to be seen as resolute about corruption when, in reality, it lacks resolve to deal with it.