Zimbabweans' Fear of Retaliation for Reporting Corruption Compounds 'Pandemic within a Pandemic'
In his inaugural speech in November 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged to fight corruption, a scourge that he said “remains the major source of some of the problems we face as a country, and its retarding impact on national development cannot be over-emphasized”. Ahead of the July 2018 elections, the president campaigned on a promise of zero tolerance for corruption. In July 2019, he swore in a reconstituted Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission following the dissolution of the previous commission on allegations of incompetence. How successful has he been in his anti-corruption campaign? According to Transparency International’s (2020) Corruption Perceptions Index, Zimbabwe ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world (157th out of 180). The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission reports that Harare metropolitan province accounted for 93.2% of all corruption cases it received in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have exacerbated – or at least highlighted – the problem. A report by Zimbabwe’s auditor general exposed extensive mismanagement and looting of pandemic-related funds and said that allowances destined for vulnerable households had not reached the intended beneficiaries due to duplicate payments and disbursement of funds to people with fictitious names, among other reasons. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health, Obadiah Moyo, was sacked in June 2020 after allegations that he illegally awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a shadowy company that sold the government face masks and other materials at inflated prices. The previous year, Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira was fired after she was accused of criminal abuse of office during her time as Minister of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare that resulted in the loss of US$95 million at the National Social Security Authority. Other high-profile figures arrested in recent years on allegations of corruption and abuse of office include former ministers Ignatius Chombo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Supa Mandiwanzira, Walter Mzembi, Walter Chidhakwa, and Samuel Undenge. Undenge was found guilty, while Mzembi, Kasukuwere, and Mandiwanzira were acquitted. The other cases are yet to be concluded. While the government says its intention is to eradicate corruption, others have dismissed the arrests as selective, politically convenient, and in some cases part of a “catch and release” game. Recent Afrobarometer survey findings show that ordinary Zimbabweans, too, are divided as to whether the government’s crackdown is genuine or a move aimed at punishing rivals within the ruling ZANU-PF party. Citizens are more unified, however, in their views that people who report corruption to the authorities risk retaliation, that graft is widespread among the police force, that some COVID-19 resources were stolen by government officials, and that the government is doing a poor job of fighting corruption.