WHENEVER the word “corruption” is mentioned in Zimbabwe, people are reminded of the various scandals involving politicians and company executives.
Top of the list, however, is the salary gate scandal, which identified a serious discrepancy in salaries paid between top executives and the lowest paid employee.
These top executives would get their salaries in full, while their juniors would go for months without pay.
This scenario has forced many Zimbabweans, even the youth to resort to unorthodox means of making money – and in most cases it is a “quick buck” where one does not necessarily need to work hard to earn that cash.
These people sometimes get paid for performing nefarious illegal tasks, just to make ends meet.
According to Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), youths have not been spared in corruption, where in some cases during electoral periods; they have been used by unscrupulous politicians to perpetuate acts of violence in exchange for money.
An online dictionary, businessdictionary.com defines corruption as, “wrong doing on the part of an authority or powerful party through illegitimate, immoral, or incompatible means. Corruption often results from patronage and is associated with bribery.”
Frank Mpahlo, a TIZ projects officer, said in his interactions with groups of young people in Zimbabwe, they revealed that they had witnessed corrupt activities in the form of nepotism, sexual extortion of students at tertiary institutions and employees at work, bribery where vendors were made to pay authorities for permission to sell wares in the streets or to get vending bays, and cronyism.
Mpahlo said in order for young people to combat corruption in order to safeguard resources for future generations, there was need for their involvement in governance processes, policy formulation and in lobbying for anti- corruption laws like the Whistleblowers Protection Act.
“There is need for more resources to be channelled towards ensuring that young women are empowered so that they are not sexually exploited at institutions of higher learning and even at workplaces,” Mpahlo said.
“The economic disaster continues to expose young people to corruption and exploitation, hence there is need to create alternative means for survival. This has resulted in youths ending up in the informal sector where they are also exploited,” he said.
He, however, said young people in Zimbabwe had an eagerness to see a functional Zimbabwean society which is rid of corruption, but lamented the fact that there was lack of coordination of youth activities by youth organisations to fight corruption.
“It is apparent that a more proactive approach is needed to capture the interest of young people as they are equally affected by corruption. Without young people’s active involvement in the anti-corruption movement, it will always remain a pipe dream to move towards a corrupt free Zimbabwe,” Mpahlo said.
He said even when the youth wanted to see change in policies, there is no space for them to participate.
Director for the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe Sydney Chisi said it was disheartening that over the past 34 years, government had come up with economic blueprints – some of them promising to combat corruption – and yet half of them never survived their tenure or were they implemented.
“We inherited two economies from the Rhodesian government, which we failed to change. The two are the formal and the informal economy and most young people now find themselves in the informal economy, and the majority of those marginalised young people are in the rural areas.
“However, we have continued to marginalise the informal sector which was beginning to grow as the nation grew. About 84% of people are in the informal sector and 72% of those in the formal sector are considered poor. About 70% of households are child headed families and they are forced to also operate in the informal sector,” Chisi said.
Chisi said although the youth were willing to operate in the informal sector, political operatives and even powerful people dictate programmes for these young people.
“Stands at Mupedzanhamo are owned by top politicians. The City Council registered 2 500 stands and vendors have to pay $3 per day to sell their wares. But, then comes Chipangano who force vendors to pay an extra $5 for the stands,” he said.
Chisi said retrenchments had also forced many children and youths to stop going to school and this has resulted in young people getting engaged in nefarious activities for a quick buck.
He said it was imperative for young people to start focusing on taking part in decision making processes and start scrutinising government processes such as contract agreements, awarding of tenders, and law and policy making so that they safeguard the country’s resources for future generations.
“There is need for young people to question how the youth fund is disbursed because now we hear that 70% of the youths who accessed that fund defaulted. We also hear that in the first year, when the youth fund was disbursed, it had already been exhausted by Harare. We want people to be engaged in developing projects that will fit into the mainstream economy,” he said.
Chisi said the problem encountered by young people was that many feared to approach the country’s leaders to question some policies like budgetary decisions.
“Zimbabwe is saddled with a debt burden that will affect young people who are the future generations. We should look at community share ownership schemes and say how many people have benefitted from those. We need to also check who is benefitting and also safeguard on gaps enshrined in different policies because at the end of the day, whatever we have should be protected for future generations,” he said.
According to TIZ researcher Farai Mutondoro, generally corruption manifested in qualitative ways and in order to measure it, perception surveys were done.
He said the 2014 TIZ corruption baseline survey revealed youths ended up engaging in corrupt activities due to poverty and unemployment.
Mutondoro said the corrupt ways which youths are practising included paying bribes to pass examinations, sex in exchange of passing examinations, paying bribes to get driver’s licences and passports, youths being used to perpetrate political violence in exchange of money, bribing policy officers, immigration officials, and even getting money using unorthodox means.
The TIZ study used a sample of 750 respondents from different provinces in the country, including rural areas, of which 45% of youths knew about corruption in Zimbabwe, 35% said they did not, while 20% said they did not want to talk about it as they felt intimidated by the subject.
He said youths that were interviewed said thereis so much corrupt activities to enable students to pass exams.
Male students pay bribes while females are sexually exploited.
“Some of the students interviewed said there were degrees which they termed ‘STDs’ (sexually transmitted degrees) because some unscrupulous lecturers sexually manipulated girls to make them pass even if they are academically challenged,” Mutondoro said.
“About 25% of the respondents defined corruption as abuse of power for gain, 15% said corruption were illegal transactions, 30% said it was bribery, while 20% said they had no answers,” he said.
Mutondoro said those who said they had no answers were indicative of the fear people had to expose corrupt individuals, while those who described it as bribery proved corruption was pervasively institutionalised.
He said it was people pay bribes to get services from institutions like the passport offices, police, tertiary institutions, primary and secondary schools, Vehicle Inspection Department and others.
Corruption amongst the youths is said to have resulted in leakages of examination papers, sexual exploitation, electoral corruption, road traffic corruption and use of vulnerable youths to commit political acts of violence for a few dollars.
Mutondoro said during interviews in Matabeleland, some youths revealed that corruption can take the form of tribalism alleging that some football clubs enrol players on the basis of tribe (Shona or Ndebele).
“One youth actually said at Highlanders Football Club there were many Shona players than Ndebele players and that is why some players had no emotional attachment with the club. Another youth from Mzilikazi also alleged music from Bulawayo was not given much airplay as compared to music by people from Harare. In Plumtree, a young woman alleged that many police officers who demanded bribes were Shona speakers.”
However, Mutondoro said the assertions on the police might have been influenced by the fact that the Zimbabwe Republic Police usually deployed Shona-speaking police in Matabeleland and Ndebele speaking police in Mashonaland.
He said Zimbabwe had more Shona speaking people, a situation that could be interpreted wrongly that Shona-speaking people were more corrupt than the Ndebeles.
He said corruption affected the youths so much because this denied them of their livelihoods. This has since bred a culture of laziness where youths opt to making a quick buck, rather than working to earn money.
“Corruption kills the entrepreneurial spirit and denies communities of basic services like education and health. It makes the poor poorer and contributes to lack of trust in government and unemployment. Most people are unwilling to fight corruption because they fear the consequences of whistle blowing. There is therefore urgent need for a whistleblowers law to protect those who want to report corruption,” Mutondoro said.