The exposure of mega-salaries earned by top managers and executives in quasi-governmental institutions betrays well thought-out schemes to enrich corrupt cliques that are politically connected. These cases should not be seen in isolation lest we fail to see the forest on the landscape of corruption.
Guest Column by Kamurai Mudzingwa
A close examination of what is happening in this country reveals a disturbing trend where corrupt schemes are clothed in legitimate activities. The unbelievable salary perks betray a job-contract kind of scheme where looting is carefully disguised as legal perks in one’s contract.
But the question that readily comes to mind is — Is it possible that those in higher offices who either approve such exorbitant perks or turn a blind eye on them benefit nothing? For the resultant perks mean that their subordinates would earn much, much more than they.
Logic tells me that this is not possible. The CEOs and their contracts are fronts in a grand scheme of things. Former State Enterprises minister Gorden Moyo in an interview with Southern Eye recently said it was difficult to deal with the rot exhibited by parastatal managers because ministers in the parent ministries would intervene.
He stated that parastatals, through management decisions, pamper the ministers with goodies such as luxury cars. If we take these visible goodies as microcosmic, then we may ask: What exactly takes place behind the scenes? We should remember that a few years ago the once vibrant Ziscosteel was looted by top, (and I mean top) politicians in government through its managers until it succumbed to bankruptcy. So the job contracts are part of well thought-out schemes and if logic be applied, the managers and CEOs are just like the biblical Lazarus at the looting table.
While job-contract schemes are as subtle as “tender schemes” there are those that are clear to the public and they are arrogantly perpetuated. Two schemes come to mind: roadblocks and tollgates.
At face value, roadblocks are mounted to weed bad elements from the roads and to save lives. But it is now a public secret that they are simply a money-making scheme as the ZRP officers have been converted into “tax collectors”. Most of the cash collected at these numerous roadblocks does not go to Treasury but to Police General Headquarters and the tickets issued out clearly indicate that.
It is not surprising therefore to note that the police now measure their success on the roads by the number of tickets issued, not by phenomena such as reduction of accidents or the reduction of unroadworthy vehicles on the roads. While we are aware of the corruption at roadblocks, we should not fail to go beyond them and ask where the thousands of dollars collected and logged on tickets go to.
We don’t see any visible improvement in the ZRP in terms of police officers’ accommodation, transport to attend crime scenes or computerisation of their operations among other things.
We now see the most junior police officers driving flashy Japanese cars that are not commensurate with their salaries. These are the “rewards” from the roadblocks. But if logic be applied, would the top cops allow a situation where their juniors enrich themselves while they contently survive on a cop’s salary? Obviously such thinking would be fallacious.
The junior officers are the Lazaruses in this set-up feeding from the crumbs off the multi-million dollar roadblock scheme. One or two junior officers are sacrificed to pacify the public as a way of showing that the “ZRP does not tolerate corruption”. What does the ZRP do with the thousands, if not millions collected every day? Who is benefiting from this scheme?
Any right thinking Zimbabwean would also wonder what happens to the thousands collected by Zinara. Thousands of dollars are collected at tollgates every day and Zinara has also come up with a ridiculous vehicle weighting system to collect more cash from the public. Ironically, we do not see any improvements of the roads that tally with the cash collected. Where is the money going to?
We hope Zinara officials and CEO are not getting obscene perks that allow them to live a pothole-free kind of life while we drive on pothole-infested roads. We fail to connect the action (revenue collection) to the result (improved roads).
But it is the land-baron scheme that has shaken the urban and peri-urban population to its core. Council officials and a few of their friends grabbed State land, divided it into residential plots and sold it at exorbitant prices to desperate home seekers.
The house waiting lists were thrown away with the garbage. The land barons had free reign, parcelling out housing stands in prohibited areas such as wetlands and areas reserved for other purposes.
The irony is that houses that were built on prohibited or unsuitable land face demolition, but the land barons who benefited from the scam are scot free.
But who was backing them? Surely we cannot be convinced that those in high offices were not aware of the land barons scheme. We can safely conjecture that if the land barons, who are at the lower end of the pecking order made away with thousands, if not millions, their political allies in high places who offered them impunity got away with murder.
But the tender scheme is the most embarrassing one as it involves foreign companies. It even drew the attention of former South African President Thabo Mbeki who told President Robert Mugabe that his ministers were seeking bribes from foreign investors who want either to do business or win tenders in this country.
We have heard how some ministers demand a standard 10 million-dollar bribe. In most cases it is the small fish like former ZMDC chairman Goodwills Masimirembwa who are targeted for exposure. The Masimirembwas in such scheme of things only get the crumbs from the diamond table.
The point is that if we look around in almost all our government and quasi-governmental institutions, we discern some kind of competition to outdo each other in terms of creating money-spinning schemes for the benefit of individuals.