While the media revelations of management excesses at PSMAS, ZBC and other parastatals are certainly welcome, there is a very real danger of misrepresenting corruption as somehow being unique to Government. The reality is quite the contrary; the private sector also has a case to answer.
This week’s revelations that DHL Zimbabwe fleeced ordinary Zimbabweans of millions of dollars in an elaborate double-charging scam should awaken us to this reality.
Equally troubling are reports in the motoring section (see B4) of insurance companies effectively running scams, refusing to honour legitimate claims.
Government officials do not fall from the heavens and impose themselves, they are drawn from society. The behaviours they display are not unique but are simply a magnification of behaviours common at a societal level. The issue is simply one of scale.
It is certainly politically convenient, and expected, for Zanu-PF’s opponents to characterise these revelations of corruption as being indicative of inherent inadequacy in the party. However, the truth is a bit more nuanced.
Nothing more perfectly captures this phenomenon than the allegations of gross corruption levelled against MDC councilors in Chitungwiza. Still within the MDC, we have read in the Press of allegations of abuse of donor funds by the leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
These allegations are not being made by Zanu-PF or the CIO but by Tsvangirai’s own colleagues.
It stands to reason that if the Chitungwiza councillors suddenly found themselves in government, appointed ministers, then the petty corruption we saw in Chitungwiza would suddenly find greater expression and opportunity.
It is a question of scale. In the same way, if Tsvangirai is today accused of abusing donor funds to pay off his lovers, then it is not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that he could similarly abuse public funds if he suddenly found himself in the highest office in the land.
The point here is that a change of government will not solve our corruption problems.
We have corruption in the private sector and we have corruption as an acceptable tool of negotiation at a social level.
How many parents have persuaded headmasters to reconsider a failed application using a brown envelope? Quite a few. How many buyers have given contracts to undeserving businesses in exchange for kickbacks? Quite a few.
These actions do not arouse moral revulsion because they are fairly acceptable tools of negotiation.
It would be naïve to expect the headmaster-bribing parent or the kickback-demanding buyer to behave any differently once they are appointed to public office. Government officials don’t fall from the heavens, they are drawn from society.
Limiting the national conversation to Government corruption deprives us of an opportunity to confront a growing societal problem. The revelations of malfeasance should be accompanied by an equally aggressive campaign to expose corruption in the private sector.
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