By Prosper Simbarashe Maguchu
2014 was a revealing year in terms of levels of corruption and malpractice in state parastatals. Both state and private media revealed and exposed the salary scandals of senior government officials earning between tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars each month, when the employees were going for months without salaries. This exposure has come to be known as Salary-gate.
The media also exposed senior goverrnment officials including the vice president and some cabinet ministers on allegations of corruption. However no single arrest was ever made. It is important to see how corruption is defined in Zimbabwe to determine why corrupt officials are not facing accountability.
The legal definition of corruption in Zimbabwe
There is no specific definition of the word corruption in the law in Zimbabwe. Rather, there are several offences reated to corruption which are listed in the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission Act [Chapter 9.22]. These are as follows:
- Giving or receiving a bribe as an inducement or reward,
- Corruptly using a false document,
- Intentionally failing to disclose or hiding a transaction (from a principal) in order to deceive;
- Intentionally failing to disclose or concealing personal interest (from a principal) in a transaction; and
- Criminal abuse of power by a public officer.
The legal definition of corruption in our laws is very narrow because it punishes only criminal abuse and it applies only to prosecute public officials.
The definition of corruption does not include other forms of abuse such as the procedural, civil or unconstitutional abuse of power by public officials such as unjustified arrests, denial of bail without just cause, unjustified subpoenas, and malicious attachment of property, executions on property or garnishments.
The following people are identified as public officers who are capable of committing corruption:
- The President;
- The Vice-President (s);
- A minister or Deputy Minister;
- A judicial officer;
- A governor appointed in terms of the law;
- A member of a council responsible for administering the affairs or business of a statutory body or local authority;
- A member of a board responsible for administering the affairs or business of a statutory body or local authority;
- A member of committee responsible for administering the affairs or business of a statutory body or local authority;
- A member of an authority responsible for administering the affairs or business of a statutory body or local authority; and
- A person holding or acting in a public office.
Corruption however occurs in both the public and private sector (including in NGOs, churches, clubs and other civil society groups).
The fact that the law does not include this type of corruption as punishable reveals an impunity gap for people in both the private sector and civil society. The law should be changed to include all these other forms of corruption.
What is the common understanding of corruption?
Corruption is commonly understood as the abuse of power or public resources for personal gain. These public resources include mineral resources, money, goods, vehicles, buildings and any other resources that belong to the government.
Forms of corruption that are believed to be common in Zimbabwe include;
– Government officials abusing state vehicles including going to funerals and late night parties in those vehicles;
-State official receiving bribes from business people/investors in order for those people to get contracts/mining concessions/land, of government-owned resources, such as motor vehicles, for private purposes;
-Government officials using their power and influence to get their children and relatives into positions that they do not deserve and that, if they had contested for fairly, would never have been appointed to such as scholarships, ambassadorial positions, jobs;
-Government officials hoarding land and mineral resources to themselves to the extent of driving the economy down while their own accounts are layered with money;
-Government officials making money out of processes that should be free to the public e.g. charging extra for speedy issuance of passports, issuance of citizenship certificates;
– Government officials publicly asking for bribes e.g. magistrates and other judicial officers asking for money to make cases disappear, for people to be acquitted