afrol News, 1 July - Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti says his government so far has been unable to do anything to fight the endemic corruption in the country. Corruption had become part of culture, he complains.
Minister Biti, representing the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in government, says he is close to powerless when it comes to fight corruption in Zimbabwe. Almost nothing had been done since the unity government assumed office.
"The solution goes beyond the legal solution, because you can have 20 anti-corruption commissions in Zimbabwe but you cannot stop corruption," Mr Biti said, answering a question about whether government was doing anything at all to contain corruption.
The Zimbabwean Finance Minister admitted there was "fundamental institutional corruption in this economy. I am afraid that we have legitimised corruption and the culture of impunity," he said. Impunity was going so far that people knew they were even getting away with murder, Mr Biti complained.
The pessimistic Minister still had no credible anti-corruption programme in the pipeline. Such a programme in any case would be complicated. "You need to deal with the structural issues that are at the epicentre of corruption. We need to deal with the corruption drivers," Mr Biti considers.
During years of economic crisis and recession, corruption had become a part of daily life and survival for large parts of the population. "Some of the problems are shortages in this non-performing economy. This creates distortions and shortages and that is when middlemen arise. We have to deliver and match demand. We are now used to shortcuts," the Minister explained.
While the root problem - a "non-performing economy" - would take a long time to overcome, Minister Biti was further discouraged by the continued success of short-cutters and corrupt individuals. "There are so many people who now have false role models, where you find a crook driving a Hummer, and you think that is a role model," he lamented.
Minister Biti, while still lacking ideas on how to fight corruption on a national basis, at least has started fighting corrupt practices within the state apparatus.
Focus so far has been on the many "ghost workers" - persons not existing but still receiving state salaries - on the civil service payroll, and on the embezzlement of Zimbabwe's many parastatals. An audit is now being concluded by the Minister of Public Service to rationalise the numbers of the payroll. Also, the parastatals, termed "little fiefdoms" by Mr Biti, are being audited.
According to Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption organisation, Angola and Zimbabwe are the most corrupt countries in the Southern African region. In Zimbabwe, local anti-corruption activists and whistleblowers until recently faced government attacks.
Analysts agree that the pervasive corruption in Zimbabwe has contributed strongly to undermine the national economy and fuel poverty. TI has urged Zimbabwe's political leaders have to "address the vicious cycle that links corruption to poverty."
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