Graft linked to state policies

GOVERNMENT has now decided to upgrade corruption as a prime source of our economic misery, joining Gideon Gono’s perceived enemy number one — inflation — and President Mugabe’s poli

tical alibi in the form of so-called illegal sanctions by the West.

In the past, the list of saboteurs has included dispossessed white farmers, bankers, exporters and hoteliers not remitting forex to the central bank, and to some extent the private media which the late Information minister Tichaona Jokonya at one time said constituted “weapons of mass destruction”.

But government for now has settled on corruption. President Mugabe in his speech to mark Heroes Day on Monday warned that “wrongful self-enrichment will not be allowed to go unpunished”.

Finance minister Herbert Murerwa and central bank governor Gono in their mid-term fiscal policy and monetary policy statements respectively, last month also raised the stakes in the anti-corruption fight.

President Mugabe said government had decided to raise the bar in the fight against corruption by expediting the creation of an economic crimes court to try and punish offenders.

The government has already appointed an Anti-Corruption Commission — a largely inert entity which is yet to justify its very existence, let alone demonstrate an ability to fight the scourge of corruption. The anti-corruption drive has also been given fresh impetus by the military-style blitz called by Gono to seize trillion-dollars’ worth of cash from people who cannot account for the money.

While we support moves to rid society of corruption, we would like to remind our rulers that the current high levels of graft, profiteering, dishonesty and money-laundering have their roots in the breakdown of the rule of law wrought by the land reform programme and inane government and central bank policies.

Government has since 2000 created an environment that has allowed grand corruption to flourish and is now reaping the fruits of its tolerance for malfeasance and lawlessness.

Five years ago we pointed out in editorials that the breakdown in the rule of law was a harbinger for a culture of impunity which the nation would one day live to regret. At the time, those who murdered and assaulted farmers and opposition supporters and those who looted equipment and crops on farms were regarded as the revolutionary vanguard of the Third Chimurenga.

They were immune from prosecution even when the courts ordered the police to act. Two years ago we heard sworn testimonies of how a dozen policemen stood akimbo at Murehwa police station as a white farmer was abducted from under their nose and shot dead. The police could not act because this was deemed a political crime.

Those who were looting and selling farm equipment and crops from commercial farmers soon grew into a cadre of rich people without breaking a sweat. This greedy lot, which has politicians among its ranks, continues to wreak havoc on the economy to this day — conducting fresh farm invasions, stealing crops and extorting money from productive farmers. These are the economic saboteurs whose activities can be linked directly to state policy.

But the most egregious act of abetting corruption was the state’s decision to avail concessionary funding to farmers in the name of supporting land reform. The taxpayers’ money became the fastest way to get rich by a few politicians and those connected to the system.

A majority of the people who got farming loans bought luxury cars and properties while others invested in government instruments on the stock exchange and on the money market. The government even had the temerity to announce debt forgiveness to those who failed to repay the loans on the pretext of a drought.

The self-enrichment activities continue, abetted by the state’s availing of free or heavily subsidised seed, fertiliser and fuel to farmers. The bulk of the inputs have found their way onto the black market where traders get huge profits. When Gono last year said prisons should be expanded so that prisoners convicted of corruption learn how to raise chickens and pigs, he had not realised how the freebies given to farmers had given rise to the need for more penitentiaries.

Government is now battling to deal with a baby of its own creation.

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