Corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic within its political, private and civil sectors. Zimbabwe ranks joint 157th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. On a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), the Corruption Perceptions Index marked Zimbabwe 24. This marks an increase in corruption since 1999, when the country ranked 4.1 (out of ten).
Corruption in the public sector
The findings of a 2000 survey commissioned by Transparency International Zimbabwe found that Zimbabwean citizens regarded the public sector as the most corrupt sector in the country. In this survey respondents favoured the police as being most corrupt followed by political parties, parliament/legislature, public officials/civil servants and the judiciary. In 2008, a Transparency International director announced that Zimbabwe loses US$5 million to corruption every day.
In 2011, then Finance Minister Tendai Biti claimed that at least US$1 billion in diamond-related revenue owed to the national treasury remained unaccounted for. Biti blamed corruption, misappropriation and a lack of transparency for the systematic underselling of diamonds and the failure to recoup losses. In an address to parliament, Biti said “it is worrying that there is no connection whatsoever between diamond exports made by Zimbabwe and the revenues realised thereof”.
The late former President Robert Mugabe and his politburo also came under criticism for making personal benefits by assigning lucrative concessions in the Marange diamond fields to Chinese firms and the Zimbabwean military. The Zimbabwean military, which oversees the Marange fields, was accused of systematic human rights abuses and smuggling of diamonds to neighbouring Mozambique.
List of Corruption Scandals In Zimbabwe
Here is a list of reported corruption scandals in Zimbabwe since 1980::
- 1982 - Paweni Scandal
- 1987 – Zisco Steel blast Furnace Scandal
- 1987 – Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal – $ 100 million
- 1986 – National Railways Housing Scandal
- 1988 – Willowgate Scandal
- 1989 – ZRP Santana Scandal
- 1994 – War Victims Compensation Scandal
- 1995 - Harare Airport scandal
- 1995 – GMB Grain Scandal
- 1996 – VIP Housing Scandal
- 1998 – Boka Banking Scandal
- 1998 - Harare Airport extension Scandal
- 1998 – ZESA YTL Soltran Scandal
- 1998 – Telecel Scandal
- 1998 – Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal
- 1999 – Housing Loan Scandal
- 1999 – Noczim Scandal
- 1999 – DRC timber and diamond Un reported scandals
- 1999 – GMB Scandal
- 1999 – Ministry of water and rural development Chinese tender scandal
- 1999 – VIP Land Grab Scandal
- 2001 – Harare Airport Scandal
- 2009 - National Railways of Zimbabwe looting scandal
- 2010 -National Railways of Zimbabwe inflating prices scandal
- 2008-2014 - Airport Road Scandal
- 2009 - Zimbabwe United Passenger’s Company bribery scandal
- 2010 - Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation Diamonds fraud scandal
- 2012 - Zimbabwe School Examination Council (ZIMSEC) tender scandal
- 2013 - ZBC Over pricing scandal
- 2014 - Air Zimbabwe insurance scam scandal
- 2014 - ZESA Procurement scandal
- 2014 - PSMAS Mega Salaries scandal
- 2016 - Zimdef Funds Jonathan Moyo Scandal
- 2016 - 15 billion Chiyadzwa loot
- 2016 - ZINARA Snow Graders Scandal
- 2018 - ZESA scam involving Samuel Undenge's criminal abuse of office
- 2020 - Covid-19 scandal involving Drax International LLC
President's Futile Efforts
In 2014 the late former President Robert Mugabe introduced the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), an organisation meant to deal with the corrupt elements in the country, but the same commission has been at the centre of a lot of controversies and accused of being corrupt itself.
ZACC was up in arms with its own commissioners who accused their employer of causing the disappearance of over $5 million which was meant to benefit its employees in terms of salaries, allowances and other packages.
Rather, the anti-graft body went further to engage top lawyers to defend itself in the courts of law using a substantial amount of money which could have benefited its operations in fighting corruption in the country, and the question now remains "Who will guard the guard" if any meaningful decision to combat corruption in Zimbabwe is to be made?
Corruption In Zimbabwe Coming in Phases
The most unanimous opinion condensed from audit reports, donor reports, household surveys, business environment and enterprise surveys, legislative reports and diagnostic studies available between 1980 -1987 was that the incidences of corruption, though present, were minimal no matter how they were defined.
During this period the State enjoyed a relatively high level of integrity, the few incidences of grand corruption that emerged in the form of two cases (State vs Paweni , State vs Charles Ndhlovu), received widespread societal condemnation.
From 1987, however, Zimbabwe saw an exponential rise in cases of corruption, from two in seven years to an average of three to four cases a year until 2002 when the lid fell off. The down spiral began in 1987 and then chronicled the progressive disintegration of the national moral and economic fibre. The vast majority of the cases, if not all, involved high-ranking politicians, some of whom are still active in politics and/or government having been surreptiously recycled back into positions of authority even when they had been convicted and sentenced.
Involvement in corruption appears to have enhanced their political careers, not damaged them. The evil and upward spiral of corruption took a dramatic upward turn following the watershed elections of 2001/2002. From 1980 to 1987, corruption was largely opportunistic corruption or greed corruption; from 1987 to 2001 we witnessed the emergence of political elite corruption or network corruption. This was fast followed by patronage corruption as the networks needed protection and ensured political loyalty and leverage by the patrons.
From 2002, political corruption, chaotic corruption entered and now we are in the belly of a new phenomenon of corruption called the Corruption Factory or systemic or managed corruption that has engulfed the private sector in a greater manner than before.
From Willowgate to Covidgate: Three Decades of Malfeasance in Zimbabwe
The Robert Mugabe-led government’s response to the Willowgate scandal in Zimbabwe will go down in history as a missed opportunity to set a precedent of combating malfeasance.
Though there had been earlier corruption scandals, such as the Paweni grain supply scandal in the early 1980s, Willowgate remains one of the country’s biggest “grand corruption” scandals, with some of its surviving beneficiaries, such as Frederick Shava and Jacob Mudenda, still enjoying the fruits of a culture of clientelism in the form of plum diplomatic assignments and continued service in public offices.
Malfeasance has become endemic in postcolonial Zimbabwe, as evidenced by other scandals dotted between Willowgate and Covidgate (also known as Draxgate, the 2020 Covid-19 medical supplies corruption scandal).
A structural corruption continuum has reinforced each president’s hold on power and enabled political elites' personal enrichment. The evident absence of political will by the two respective presidents to acknowledge and support legitimate anti-corruption citizen initiatives reveals their compromised standing in this regard.
First, Mugabe consciously and conveniently ignored Willowgate. This scandal occurred only four years after he had launched the Zanu PF leadership code he ostensibly instituted to combat corruption after the Paweni grain scandal.
The main consequence of his and the governing coalition’s response to the Willowgate scandal has been the entrenchment, over at least three decades, of a culture of corruption in general, but also malfeasance with impunity. The perception of corruption in the institutions that are meant to uphold the rule of law and minimise malfeasance is widespread among citizens.
Public resources meant to support critical services in various sectors such as public health and education continue to be misappropriated and plundered without any political will to deter, punish or even recover and restore them to their rightful use of improving services and developing public infrastructure.
The prevalence of malfeasance in the health ministry at such a critical juncture — when the world’s resources are being channelled towards strengthening health-care systems in the fight against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic — has proven beyond reasonable doubt that ordinary citizens bear the brunt of high-level corruption.
Though the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for mechanisms to ensure the integrity and accountability of public officials, the investigations, prosecutions and sanctions of such identified cases has largely remained cosmetic.
The government’s response has instead been an onslaught against citizen expression and media freedom. Three decades on, the response is still designed to protect the offender and disable, censor and even punish the whistle-blower. The sense of déjà vu in Geoff Nyarota's dismissal as editor of The Chronicle after exposing Willowgate, and Hopewell Chin’ono’s arrest on 20 July 2020 for engaging in an unwavering social media anti-corruption campaign.
In a bid to ignore the corruption scandal, Chin’ono’s arrest was framed conveniently as being for "inciting public violence" and not as exposing malfeasance. Though he was eventually granted bail after 44 days in pretrial detention, the stringent bail conditions that curtailed his freedom of movement and barred him from using Twitter were testimony to the risks that accompany investigative journalism and the anti-corruption crusade.
The case also pointed to how endemic corruption has eroded, in its wake, the independence of the country’s judiciary. To ensure the protection of public officials, there is a plot to control the operations of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, whose chairperson, Loice Matanda-Moyo, was married to the late foreign affairs minister and November 2017 coup announcer Sibusiso Moyo who died in January 2021. It is a clear case of a conflict of interest.
There was also a structural threat to the freedom of the judiciary in chief justice Luke Malaba’s memorandum which directed that all judgments were to be "seen and approved by the head of court division" before being issued. While this was strongly contested, the directive’s threat to the independence of the judiciary was evident in the delays and uncertainties that characterised Chin’ono’s case.
He was not only denied bail three times but was deprived of his right to fair legal representation. The targeted personal attacks on his lead lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, her intimidation and subsequent barring from representing him, all pointed to the multi-sectoral cost of malfeasance in Zimbabwe. It has not only eroded the country’s economy, but tragically the independence of institutions that are meant to protect the citizens.
However, the Zimbabwean case confirms that despite the supreme law of the land having defined provisions for combating corruption, this is insufficient. Much more needs to be done, as noted by the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, to combat “the culture of clientelism that has bred continued disinvestment in infrastructure on the African continent”.
Transparency International’s Delia Ferreira Rubio observed a correlation between high levels of corruption and weak rule of law, curtailed access to information and reduced citizen participation. Corruption is a threat to citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms. Transparency International calls for strategies that will nip corruption in the bud, such as putting in place legal frameworks and institutions that reduce impunity for the corrupt and enlarging space for civil society voices, as well as entrenching integrity and values through education.
As Zimbabwean citizens continue to dispute the legitimacy of the current government, it is worth imagining a different future, a future in which adequately punitive and judiciously executed consequences (that serve as a sufficient deterrent to corruption) are instituted.
The Zimbabwean fight against malfeasance must indeed go beyond the verbal remonstrations characteristic of both eras, and the “catch and release” approach that has largely been a feature of the Emmerson Mnangagwa regime.
Corruption is the winner
Corrupt elements in the government and parastatals continue to enjoy protection even to this day. Quite a number of top government officials have been fingered in corrupt activities, but nothing has been done to them as they continue to enjoy protection from their comrades in arms.
The same situation has been prevailing to date where only the "elite" in top positions seem to enjoy the "corruption fruits" and continue to smile all the way to the banks at the expense of the majority of the Zimbabweans who still continue to wallow in poverty.