Questions of moral authority within the Zimbabwean society are suddenly urgent and essential; we have allowed corruption to thrive leading to the erosion, in real terms, of independence in all aspects of citizens’ life; people are political prisoners held hostage to ZANU PF ideological imposition; they are physically emaciated, hungry, jobless, and hopeless. To adjust and adapt to the abnormal conditions, society has lowered its moral authority creating huge deficit in moral standards and character as people are having to do whatever it takes, including complicit to corrupt practices, just to feed families. We are also seeing the growth of politics of deflection in which blaming ‘Western sanctions’ has of itself become a de facto defensive policy shielding corrupt leadership from public scrutiny.
President Joe Biden of the USA has described corruption as a cancer that eats away at public faith in democratic processes, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity; deprives national budgets of funds for essential projects, and crowds out important national investments. It wastes the talent of entire generations. It scares away investments and jobs. Zimbabwe is a good example of the wastefulness of corruption.
For almost two decades, the injunction ‘Western sanctions’ has been used to deflect criticism of the government and stifle the legitimate public anger and dissent. The whole time we have been told Western sanctions are the reason the ZANU PF-led government has failed to meet its public mandate, but nobody has asked the question or explained why the rich and the elite in bed with ZANU PF are not affected as is the rest of the population.
We are not fools and can see through the manipulation of what are specifically targeted sanctions against human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption in Zimbabwe; the politically engineered perception of Western sanctions being the purveyor of Zimbabwean citizens’ suffering has been established for the purpose, as well as with the effect, of its being made an instrument of intimidation, corruption, and for the support of oppression in the hands of government.
Is this time for truth to be told? It is never unpatriotic to denounce bad state activity, in fact it is the most patriotic action we can take. Corruption has been the main feature of ZANU PF’s rule long before the 2003 targeted sanctions regime was enacted; the 1988/89 Willowgate Scandal, among other dodgy schemes whose origin had nothing to do with external forces but everything to do with local corrupt mechanism, come to mind.
Under the ZANU PF-led government Bulawayo has suffered humiliating relegation from a thriving industrial hub to a ghost industrial estate full of empty shells, with some building structures repurposed for use as churches; the city has undergone a full transformation from an economic heartland, home to heavy industry, creativity, and production to a desperate spiritual, faith and hope for miracles capital.
The rapid demise of Bulawayo as an industrial heartland in the late 1990s was a direct result of a combination of two factors: the general economic decline in the country and an unscrupulous economic and political policy which enabled uncouth economic activities that saw ailing companies in the city being acquired at below market value by privileged ZANU PF connected individuals with questionable business motives; from the onset these characters’ intentions were not to run thriving businesses or save jobs in the city, but to enrich themselves; they immediately stripped the companies of their assets before placing them under liquidation. Nobody questioned such unethical practice.
Dealing with corruption is no mean business, but it is not an impossible undertaking. Corruption is a creation of society both by taking actions that undermine moral codes of practice and by not acting when we should to avert the former; it is a complex social, political, and economic phenomenon that negatively affects ordinary citizens every day; as pointed by President Biden, it undermines democratic institutions and slows economic development; we are witnesses to its ongoing attacks on the foundation of democratic institutions through gerrymandering of constituency boundaries among other manipulation of electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic barriers whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes.
Where economic development is concerned, stability, confidence, and investment are intertwined; in the current climate economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment – a vital source of foreign currency – is discouraged, and local small businesses are crowded out of start-up finances they desperately need to remain competitive.
It is obvious to all that in the ZANU PF-led Zimbabwe our freedoms are vanishing fast. Sanctions are not the author of our problems, but corruption, a construction of society, is the foundation of public suffering; society’s demands for moral authority and character have not increased in line with the importance of positions; accountability has never been a demand of those in power, yet it is the most essential element in democratic processes; unfortunately, once power is surrendered, it cannot be voluntarily returned. The only option at hand is to act; take a stand now against all that is wrong while we still can, and not leave it to future generations to do so when it will be far riskier, and harder.