Beyond the Rhetoric – The Need for a National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS) in Zimbabwe

The discussion on corruption being antithetical to economic development remains a topical issue at many levels in Zimbabwe especially in light of recent allegations on the “so-called fuel curtail and Queen B mystery”. The recent allegations, if there is an element of truth in them, only rub salt into the wound. Suffice to say we are a nation in distress. A 2017 study by Transparency International Zimbabwe revealed that as a country we now have a culture of corruption, a culture in which we have created slang terms in our lingo to accommodate corruption in general and bribery in particular. A culture in which we have developed non-verbal communication we use to enshroud corruption of all forms. Corruption as Chiweshe (2017) simply puts it has become an intrinsic part of everyday life in Zimbabwe. The Global Competitiveness Report (2016-2017 Edition) identified corruption as the 3rd most problematic factor for doing business in Zimbabwe. The 2016 World Bank Enterprise Survey, stated that 38,3% of the firms that took part in the survey identified corruption as a major constraint of doing business in Zimbabwe. In fact, there are a number of past and recent credible studies, that have all confirmed that there is endemic corruption in Zimbabwe which continue to eat into the country socio-economic growth.
 
Confronted by the fact that corruption has become so rampant and is no doubt one of the biggest threats to socio-economic transformation, the new Government has proposed and put in place a number of anti-corruption policy actions. Some of the policy actions include: the three months amnesty extended to those who externalized funds, the setting up of special anti-corruption courts and the mandatory declaration of assets by senior public officials. The Executive and the President, in particular, have on numerous occasions denounced corruption. Since November 2017, there has been some media sensation and frenzy over the investigation and sometimes arrest of high level political and business elites like Undenge, Chombo, Chivhayo on allegations of graft. While all these actions and intentions by the Government are commendable, there still remains a compromising policy gap in how the Government has responded to the problem of corruption. The Government’s current anti-corruption actions are that of managing corruption and not preventing corruption. For some of us in the anti-corruption sector, we know that it is rationally sound and prudent to prevent corruption than to manage it. After all conventional wisdom says prevention is better than cure. Managing and being reactive to corruption through arrest for instance is costly, it instils no public confidence in the state ‘s ability to effectively curb corruption and at times is just a waste of time and public resources especially in a context where there is a high level of impunity and seemingly selective application of the law in as far as who is arrested on allegation of corruption and who is not. Some would argue therefore that the Government ‘s current reactive response to corruption is doing the political administration a great disservice. There is an erosion of public faith and confidence in the Government ‘s ability to effectively clamp down on corruption. This is why some anti-corruption experts and scholars continue insisting on the need for “genuine political will” to curb corruption. Whose will is more important? that of the people or of the political class? The President of Zimbabwe has said on many occasions the voice of the people is the voice of God. Citizen voice and will is the most important lethal weapon against corruption and not that of the political class that might actually be benefitting from the status quo. We need to change our narrative and move away from the elitist articulation on the need for political will. The most effective way to deal with endemic corruption in Zimbabwe, therefore, lays in sustained citizen action against corruption. The fight against corruption should not be confined to an anti-corruption body or agency. It should not be a preserve of lawyers and other technocrats. The Turkish One Minute of Darkness for Constant Light in 1997 and 2017 Romanian anti-corruption protest has revealed to all of us that what is key in fighting corruption is the citizen will and action against corruption and not so much hype over political will which may never manifest.
 
The United Nations Convention Against Corruption to which Zimbabwe is a signatory to, under Article 5 on Preventive Anti-Corruption Policies and Practices, calls upon state parties to develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies/ strategies. Anti-corruption strategies define a set of priority objectives to prevent and combat corruption. Usually, they also include action plans with implementation and monitoring mechanisms[1]. A number of countries globally have developed NACS and these include the United Kingdom, Romania, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Tanzania, Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa and many others. It is important to note that the impact of the NACS is dependent on other variables beyond the development of the NACS itself. The key variables include the extent to which the Strategy is implemented, funded for and supported by others actors and more importantly the extent to which the implementation of the Strategy itself is monitored and evaluated. Romania ‘s approach to the NACS is often cited as a best practice mainly because the Romanian NACS as Martini (2013) argues, it is based on a sound knowledge base of what has and hasn’t worked in the fight against corruption in that polity. Martini further argues that the Romanian NACS is better designed because it places great emphasis on changing the behaviour of officials, particularly in sectors deemed to be important and prone to corruption (prioritization) and the strategy emphasizes the importance of monitoring and evaluation.
 
Beyond the rhetoric on a “corruption-free Zimbabwean society”, this country needs a proper strategy to contain the endemic corruption. Such a strategy needs to be citizen-driven. Such a strategy should enlist the key anti-corruption actors, identify the key anti-corruption priorities for the country, set an anti-corruption action plan and monitoring framework and also include an anti-corruption communication strategy. At the point of writing, no one knows how far Government has gone in implementing the Mandatory declaration of Assets by Senior Public Officials. No one knows how effective the anti-corruption courts have been because there is no framework to at least monitor and communicate with citizens. There is corruption in all most all key sectors in Zimbabwe ranging from land, public health, state enterprises, extractives, wildlife management, state enterprises inter alia. It would be impossible for the Government to effectively and efficiently respond to corruption in all these sectors and get results. There is a need to prioritize taking into consideration citizen experience, institutional capacity and the net impact of corruption in a particular sector. Transparency International Zimbabwe is leading on a Campaign for the development and implementation of a citizen-driven National Anti Corruption Strategy.
 
Only a united stand can win the fight against corruption #NACSZim. Your input would make a difference in redeeming this great nation from the claws and bondage of the grand and petty level corruption. Renowned lawyer and governance expert Brian Kagoro has on many occasions articulated that Zimbabwe has had a series of struggles. Struggle against white minority rule, the struggle for democratization, struggle for women emancipation. Brian aptly argues that “…. the struggle is our incorruptible heritage” The fight against is a struggle, such a struggle can only be sustained if it’s citizen-centred and driven. More profoundly such a struggle needs a strategy. Beyond the rhetoric, Zimbabwe needs a Strategy to wage a winning war against the endemic corruption in Zimbabwe.