Gender & Corruption in Zimbabwe 2019

1. Introduction

Corruption is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon that affects the essential principles of democracy and the rule of law. It hampers development and affects the fulfilment of human rights, particularly those of the most vulnerable groups (Eurosocial and Transparency International, 2018). Corruption remains a key governance and development challenge confronting Zimbabwe. It has become normalised in the social, economic, political, and even religious fabric of society (TI Z, 2018). Generally, there is a consensus, judging from narratives from all sections of society including academic and policy narratives, that corruption has in the last 15 years progressively become an endemic problem in Zimbabwe. The country continues to score negatively on governance and corruption indices such as the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

In 2018, Zimbabwe had a low score of 22 on the CPI, signifying high perceived levels of corruption in the public sector. The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Focusing on economic corruption, Chitambara (2015) revealed that the state of corruption in Zimbabwe has been described as systemic and endemic and is often cited as one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth and development. It further undercuts various dimensions of human well-being such as health, access to clean water, and education, and it negatively affects subjective dimensions of life such as self-reported well-being and happiness (Stensota and Wangnerud, 2018).

Although various tentacles of corruption such as ‘grand’, ‘systemic’ or ‘petty’ corruption are widely known and documented (Sachikonye 2015),the nexus between gender and corruption is not well researched. It is undeniable that corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic permeating economic, political and social spheres and its effects experienced by various actors, including women. Whilst for several years, the focus has been on the impact of corruption on citizens in general and the economic cost thereof, there has been glaring gap on the contextual analysis of the impact of corruption amongst different sexes / gender. The World Bank (2002) defines gender as socially constructed differences between men and women that may influence social and economic activities, as well as their access to resources and decision making. While all of society suffers from corruption’s weakening of the efficiency, effectiveness and probity of the public sector, it has well-known differential impacts on social groups – with poor people among its greatest victims (Hossain et al 2010). Women and girls are among the most affected, not least because they account for the largest proportion of people living in poverty but because corruption exacerbates existing inequalities as a result of asymmetric power relationships (ibid).

Despite such pronouncements, a lot of controversy still surrounds gender and corruption especially in resource constrained settings such as Zimbabwe. Is there a relationship between gender and corruption? Do women suffer the impacts of corruption more than men? Are there specific forms of corruption that are peculiar to women than men? These are some of the questions, TI Z sought to address in this study. However, it is important to note that women are not a monolithic category. Thus it was imperative to explore this topic of gender and corruption by considering the different ages, classes, races, religious, geographical, education, marital and ethnicity statuses of women in Zimbabwe.

Despite such pronouncements, a lot of controversy still surrounds gender and corruption especially in resource constrained settings such as Zimbabwe. Is there a relationship between gender and corruption? Do women suffer the impacts of corruption more than men? Are there specific forms of corruption that are peculiar to women than men? These are some of the questions, TI Z sought to address in this study. However, it is important to note that women are not a monolithic category. Thus it was imperative to explore this topic of gender and corruption by considering the different ages, classes, races, religious, geographical, education, marital and ethnicity statuses of women in Zimbabwe.

It is also important to highlight that this study was further influenced by the current discourse on the development of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has held consultative meetings with various stakeholders including TI Z on what should form part of this strategy. A National Anti-Corruption Strategy has the potential of positioning the Government of Zimbabwe’s (GoZ) intervention strategy in fighting corruption. Hence, this study provides an opportunity for stakeholders in the anti-corruption chain to have an appreciation of the perceptions and dynamics of corruption across genders and captures the interlocking nuances embedded in the gendered nature of corruption. Also important for this study is that women are not only victims of corruption, but they are also active actors in the anti-corruption chain. Thus, equally crucial is the role of women in fighting corruption. It has been noted that the belief that women are less corrupt than men is widespread, even among development specialists (Boehm 2015), but still this is highly contested.

Source: Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ)

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