Endemic corruption in Zimbabwe: Is the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 failing us?

A constitution is a “mirror reflecting the national soul, the identification of the ideals and aspirations of a nation; the articulation of the values binding its people and disciplining its government.”

Former Chief Justice of South Africa, Justice Ismail Mohammed in State v. Acheson 1991 (2) SA 805 (Nm) at p. 813 A-B.

Introduction

In 2013 Zimbabwe adopted its “new” constitution- the supreme law of the land, Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013. The term new is used cautiously as the constitution is now seven years old but various pieces of legislation are yet to be aligned to it. This constitution is hailed as a progressive piece of legislation as it not only contains a chapter dedicated to the Bill of Rights but also clearly sets out provisions that relate to the tenets of good governance. It also makes provision for institutions designed to combat corruption in Zimbabwe. However, despite having this supreme law of the land, corruption in Zimbabwe has become so deeply entrenched and endemic. A look at various governance and corruption indices such as the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) reinforces the extent to which bad governance and corruption have become pervasive in Zimbabwe.

The CPI, scores and ranks countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be by experts and business executives using a score of 0 to 100 where 0 is perceived to be very corrupt and 100 very clean. Zimbabwe has remained below the sub-Saharan regional average for the past 5 years (2015-2019). The IIAG on the other hand measures and monitors the quality of governance in African countries. In the 2017 IIAG, Zimbabwe was ranked 39th on the continent of 54 countries with 47% as its overall governance score. Ordinary citizens, church leaders, the private sector and public officials have also lamented the extent to which corruption has deprived the nation of resources that should be channelled towards the development of the nation. The head of State, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has also made several statements on the need to eradicate corruption. It is against this backdrop that this week’s weekend digest focuses on interrogating the reasons why Zimbabwe is not making the desired strides in the fight against corruption, whose social and economic effects on citizens can no longer be denied.

The Constitution and Good Governance

In its broad sense a constitution consists of a set of rules or norms which regulates the allocation of powers, functions, and duties of the government (the executive, parliament, and the judiciary) and other important national institutions. It also defines the relation between the state and its citizens. Constitutions can be written, as in the case of Zimbabwe or unwritten. The constitution of Zimbabwe contains several provisions that speak to good governance. Good governance can be defined as the use of political authority and exercise of control over a society and the management of its resources for social and economic development. Its key elements are accountability, transparency, responsiveness, combating corruption, citizen participation, and an enabling legal/judicial framework. For this digest, we look at some of constitutional provisions that promote anti-corruption efforts.

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Source: Transparency International Zimbabwe