The corrupt can get angry

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People can talk about the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) economic blueprint until their voices get hoarse, but nothing significant will happen as long as there is a parallel and bigger economy – the bribe and extortion economy. The $4,1 billion 2014 National Budget pales into insignificance in comparison to the parallel economy.

Echoes with Conway Tutani

We had this not-so-funny report this week under the headline “Beatrice girl (10) vanishes with cops’ $2 000 roadblock loot”.

This was about a girl who chanced upon $2 000 which police manning a roadblock, after extorting the money from motorists in unreceipted spot fines, had hidden in the bush as a precaution in the event that they were searched by internal investigators. This revenue leakage is played out daily on the roads. The cops – using their investigative skills accompanied by all manner of threats – traced the money to the girl and gave a “token of appreciation” of $10. That’s how open and brazen corruption has become.

This week again there was a report about ubiquitous Omani businessman Kamal Khalfan who – through a political network – has become the front for multi-million-dollar deals while his ministerial enablers remain in the shadows. His reach extends high and wide. No wonder he has made Zimbabwe his second home.

In an email publicised this week, Khalfan boasts about his connections to top government officials and how he can arrange deals with the government. Then there is one Sheikh Ali Baba who was mentioned by President Robert Mugabe himself as an international crook. Beyond the politics, most people are alike. You have all the range of characters: from the “goodest” to the “baddest”. Some people shout indigenisation from the mountaintop while they are mortgaging national assets to foreigners at basement price.

Look at the state of the roads where corrupt police extort money daily and more than dutifully. Some of the roads have disappeared. A motorist from Botswana and his family who put up at my place recently could not believe what they saw. That is their lasting impression of Zimbabwe. They could not help but notice the amazing contrast in road conditions when you cross the border. On the Botswana side the roads are smooth, wide, safe and beautiful. On the Zimbabwe side, the roads are bumpy, narrow, potholed and unsightly. It’s time to seriously consider taking class action as citizens over loss of lives and damage to vehicles.

Look at the state of the railways. Railways are the main artery of inland transport in an economy. They are an energy-efficient mode of transportation, most suitable for large-scale movement of manpower, bulk commodities and for long-distance travel. They are the lifeline of a country and hold great importance in its socio-economic development. This helps to accelerate the growth of industry and agriculture. But is there any rail service to talk about in Zimbabwe?
Infrastructure is the main artery of the economy. When it disappears, the economy grinds to a halt. Simple as that.

That is the deplorable state of the nation today. No wonder revenue inflow is at a trickle. Zimbabwe is not poor, but has been made poor by greed and corruption. There is wholesale bleeding of the economy without political will to stop this.

Those supposed to implement ZimAsset need to overcome their chronic aversion and inability to reform the economy. They have such a bad record they have to prove wrong the negative projections that their “policies will be as destructive as ever; a collapse of dollarisation along with a return to hyperinflation are on the cards. Capital still able to flee will be looking for exits”. (The Economist: The World in 2014) Remember when they took seriously diesel n’anga Rotina Mavhunga’s claims of pure diesel oozing out of rocks and made national plans around that in 2007? So it is not beyond them to pulverise the US dollar like they did with the Zimdollar. Foolhardy things have been done before and could be repeated.

This set of circumstances – in tandem with the parlous state of some indigenous banks — points to failure. Money is safer under the mattress than in some of these banks. No economic blueprint — no matter how well worked out — can work under such conditions where there are too many missing links. When this is raised, it is not out of being alarmist, but concern and vigilance. What is happening is not only hard, but impossible to ignore. This is most unfortunate and cruel against the backdrop of severe economic hardships. How can people live so large while the majority is suffering? There is, by all appearances, some exhibitionist behaviour – like some people are starring in their own action movie. But we must look behind this political theatre.

Of course, this will incur the anger and hostility of the corrupt, but let’s not be afraid to ruffle feathers. In fact, let’s welcome their hatred, as former United States President F D Roosevelt lashed out in 1936 at the change-resistant, oppressive and exploitative political-cum-business class which had been corrupted by power and its Siamese twin — money.

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