The talk of corruption in Zimbabwe is becoming a truism as it happens every day and society complains about it all the time.
Column with Rashweat Mukundu
The challenge remains the world of a difference between the experiences of the powerless ordinary members of society who are at the receiving end of corruption, and the powerful that pay lip service to corruption and in the process propagandise about it in the media and other public platforms.
This was the case this weekend when The Sunday Mail’s Brian Chitemba wrote a piece headlined: Government walks the talk on corruption.
The story epitomises the sorry state of the media when journalists are forced to search deep into the deep hole for words, statements and anything to defend a regime that is obviously not interested in taking real action on corruption.
On seeing the headline on the story, one is forced to read and search deep to find and make sense of the actions mentioned to support or give credence to the said actions against corruption.
The unfortunate thing is that there is none, and what Chitemba states are in fact actions to correct the effects of corruption and not to stem it.
Many may wonder why I am picking on this issue and this story in particular.
The reason is that this story gives citizens, in more detail, the state of thinking within the mainstream media on what is corruption and how it should be dealt with, moreso the state of mind of those working for media in their defence of the Zanu PF government even at the cost of the same government, which is broke and failing to fulfil its responsibilities.
In talking about this, the hope is that journalists could be disabused from seeing issues in binary terms — them and us — especially when it comes to corruption.
Corruption is a cancer that needs a holistic approach and not something to placate the government via a process of reductio ad absurdum and misleading headlines.
The story tells the story of the lack of seriousness regarding addressing corruption in Zimbabwe.
The actions that Chitemba mentions as evidence of the government acting on corruption include the ZBC salaries scandal, the dismissal of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) board, unknown cases at AirZim and others related to Umguza Rural District Council and ZINARA.
As a journalist, I acknowledge the daily difficulty of searching for story ideas which journalists call a diary and I am also aware of how journalists are ultimately socialised into the operational framework and routines of the institutions that they work for.
For an impressionable journalist, working for the State-owned media, be it The Herald or The Sunday Mail, may simply imply defending Zanu PF and finding something positive to say about the party and its activities in government.
The dame could be true of those working for other media houses who may see their role as simply attacking the government.
In this regard, one would see Chitemba’s story in that light, the regrettable thing being this is a serious matter that needs far deeper thinking than the throwing of a few sentences and phrases here and there.
I say so because all the walking the talk stated in the story does not register as any walks at all, but a desperate attempt to cover up and correct employer concerns at the ZBC and placate President Robert Mugabe on ZMDC.
The suspension of the ZBC boss Happison Muchechetere, as an example, could have happened for a number of reasons unrelated to corruption.
In any case, we have not heard the ministry or anyone in government stating that there will be action on the corrupt at the ZBC.
If there is abhorrence of corruption then the matter should simply be handed over to the police. The corrupt, if any, at ZBC are scot free and will not be charged.
What the ministry simply did was to put an end to the financial crisis, the potential for corruption remains and the corrupt still hold onto and are enjoying their loot.
The dismissal of the ZMDC board is again a normal thing in any organisation.
A new minister with a new vision may as well have decided to hunt with his own dogs.
Stories have been reported of corruption at ZMDC, but to date, no one has been arrested. What Chitemba calls walking the talk is in fact a cover up of the corruption.
Both ZBC and ZMDC are State-owned and their management and boards are appointed with a heavy influence, if not exclusive participation of the executive.
The recycling of individuals cannot be called addressing corruption. Have any questions been asked to the respective ministries’ permanent secretaries and directors on their actions or knowledge of the shocking actions at the two institutions?
Would it not have been better for The Sunday Mail to ask and inform us what happened to those individuals whom President Mugabe mentioned as corrupt and action was promised?
Could it be that there is no one clean enough in the system to take action on their colleagues or walk the talk as we hear?
Zimbabwe is suffering immensely from entrenched corruption within the Zanu PF-run system.
Private sector and petty corruption by individuals is equally a concern, but the culture is nurtured by those in power.
They set the parameters and rules of the game on how far corruption can go.
Government collects taxes on our behalf and carries out activities that are meant to directly benefit citizens.
It is for this reason that corruption by Zanu PF and government is by far more destructive as it hits citizens directly. And it is for this reason that the media must at least stop white-washing such actions by manufacturing positive stories and actions allegedly being taken when we all know that nothing of the sort is happening.
Next time Chitemba decides to write another puff piece on corruption we hope that he gets to the streets and asks people what they think.
It is not wrong for a serious Zanu PF to set an example on corruption and not just talk endlessly, and it is good if journalists can see their role beyond allegiance and proximity to power and ask real questions that benefit society and ultimately the government itself.