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Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Although the law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively or impartially, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Despite government pronouncements, corruption remained a severe problem. Transparency International released a report on corruption in the country that found the country was losing at least $1 billion a year to corruption at citizens’ expense. Local-level service delivery–for example, through the police, local councils, vehicle inspection department, and education department–had become the face of corruption, and paying bribes to access services had become the new norm. Police frequently arrested citizens for low-level corruption while ignoring reports implicating high-level businesspersons and politicians.

Corruption: Corruption occurred at every level of the police force but took different forms, depending on position, rank, or location. At the junior levels, to augment their low salaries, corrupt officers extorted nominal to exorbitant fines from the public for various claimed offenses. Armed police routinely erected roadblocks, claiming to be looking for criminals or smuggled goods. In many cases police arbitrarily seized goods for their own consumption or extracted bribes from commuters. Municipal police in urban areas often raided vendors and confiscated their wares for personal use. Generally no records of the confiscated goods existed, despite the law’s requiring it.

Implementation of the government’s redistribution of expropriated white-owned commercial farms often favored the ZANU-PF elite and continued to lack transparency (see section 1.f.). High-level ZANU-PF officials selected numerous farms and registered them in the names of family members to evade the government’s policy of one farm per official. The government continued to allow individuals aligned with top officials to seize land not designated for acquisition. The government had yet to issue the mandated comprehensive land audit to reflect land ownership accurately.

In July, Vice President Phelekezela Mhpoko personally ordered the release from a Harare police station of two public officials detained on corruption charges. When police initially resisted Mhpoko’s demands, the vice president drove to the police station. His aides reportedly assaulted the police and forced them to release both public officials.

There were reports that ZANU-PF officials in the government discriminated against, harassed, or removed persons perceived to be opposition supporters from the civil service and the military (see section 7.d.). The government reassigned and demoted officials viewed as sympathetic to Zimbabwe People First leader Joice Mujuru.

It remained common for the ZANU-PF minister of local government to appoint ZANU-PF supporters to bureaucratic positions in local governments. City public administrators earned hugely inflated salaries. In most rural areas, the government appointed ZANU-PF activists as “special interest” councilors. In September the local government minister suspended elected opposition councilors in Bulawayo based on allegations of corruption.

The Minister of Finance announced the government’s intention to reduce the rolls of the civil service, but unqualified persons employed by the Public Service Commission remained on the state payroll. The majority served as youth and gender officers in various ministries and other public entities. According to the most recent audit, illicit salary payments were made to large numbers of persons who were retired, deceased, or otherwise absent from their place of employment. Uncovered duplicate personally identifiable information in files indicated some persons received more than one salary.

Corruption was especially pervasive in local government, where officials abused their positions and government resources openly and with impunity. Local councilors’ allocation of land lots for residential and commercial use led to numerous allegations of bribery attempts. Police arrested and charged some low-level land barons but not politicians benefiting from the deals. Government officials also demanded bribes or excessive fees for “expediting” paperwork, including birth certificates, passports, and driver’s licenses. Councilors practiced nepotism in hiring general council workers and in land allocation. Allegations of corruption continued against both ZANU-PF and MDC-T councilors. Most council employees were members of the political party dominating that council.

Prosecutions for corruption continued but were selective and generally seen as politically motivated. The government targeted MDC-T officials, persons who had fallen out of favor with ZANU-PF, and individuals without high-level political backing. Despite President Mugabe’s public allegations of corruption against senior ZANU-PF members, security officials made only a few arrests of low-level party members.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not require elected or appointed officials to disclose income or assets. The government did not enforce its policy requiring officials to disclose interests in transactions that form part of their public mandate. Most government departments failed to meet their statutory reporting obligations to parliament under the Public Finance Management law.

Public Access to Information: Citizens generally were unable to access government information. Although the government asserted that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was intended to improve public access to government information, the act contains provisions that restrict freedom of speech and press, and these elements of the act were the ones the government enforced most vigorously. The act restricts the information citizens may request from public offices.

While the law permits access to some government records, it also imposes nominal fees for administrative costs involved in retrieving the records that many citizens found burdensome. In addition citizens often faced burdensome and complicated regulations to obtain access to government buildings where records are kept, including parliament, where security officers often turned away citizens for “wrong dress.”

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future