Corruption has destroyed our politics, prospects for development

By Tapiwa Gomo

The campaign trails are gathering momentum ahead of the 2023 elections. New political parties are launching with more expected to come alive as we draw closer to the polling season. It is as if we have a shortage of political parties. At local level, some have started declaring their interests within their party structures, while some are using whatever means to block others from campaigning.

In this brouhaha, the most important questions remain unanswered. What do we, as a nation, want to achieve out of the forthcoming election? In the last few years, this question was easy to answer than now. This is because the departure and demise of former President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has changed the political dynamics.

The texture of politics is now more coarse that it was when these two leaders were on the scene. The narrative was clear then that the ruling party needed to leave office because it had not only failed but messed up the economy. And the only available and determined replacement then was the labour-backed MDC led by Tsvangirai. Politics had a well-defined meaning that time than it is now.

Today’s politicians are driven largely by opportunism and the desire to access State resources — in simpler terms to access corruption opportunities.  This is because politics of patronage has been allowed to thrive over national interests. The new dispensation has not helped but worsened the situation by rewarding losing candidates under the rubric of Political Actors Dialogue. Both losing and winning candidates are being rewarded thus encouraging more people to contest elections as presidential candidates.

From the lenses of democracy, contesting in elections is all fair and fine and within their rights, but there is a downside to this which is not helping in promoting development.

Zimbabwe needs to revive its economic development agenda, to unleash its potential and become an economic giant again. A better future of the country is built by economic activities and not politics and yet our current politics is destroying the momentum for economic growth.

The politics at play, unfortunately, does not promote and is remotely inspired by the desire to strengthen development of the country.

This is because those who aspire to take leadership roles are no longer doing so to pursue national interests, but for self-enrichment — to create a moment to steal from national coffers. Part of the reason is the limited or no economic income-generating opportunities other than politics.

The eventual outcome of this situation is a corruption trap or cycle caused by politics of poverty. The trap is caused by self-reinforcing mechanisms that cause corruption and keep it alive. Once corruption exists and one becomes part of it, it becomes cyclic and perpetual as money breeds power and power corrupts unless there is an external intervention which is often expected of opposition and civil society organisations.

In our case, it appears the new dispensation has successfully managed to dangle a different carrot altogether. Instead of the opposition pressuring the ruling government to behave, stop corruption or improve on governance, it is going for the benefits offered by the corrupt system.

Because our politics has been weakened by freebies, corruption is not only a danger to national  economic aspirations, but also to the politics from which the people bank their hopes for change.

This is one of the reasons the ruling party will stay in power as corruption will likely persist across generations, keeping the country trapped in politics of inconclusive elections with minimum mechanisms to hold leadership accountable.

There are many disadvantages that collectively work in a circular process, making it virtually impossible for the nation and individuals to break the cycle of corruption.

This occurs when people are impoverished and no longer have the political resources necessary to initiate an uprising for political change to extricate themselves from this cycle.

In other words, an impoverished nation or individuals have no access to economic and social resources as a result of centralised resources and political power.

And the only way to access resources is to join the corrupt system and de-prioritise challenging the system. The result is the death of democracy and deepening poverty and strengthening of cartels. This could mean that Zimbabwe will remain poor for generations.

Politics trapped in the cycle of corruption, gives less or no power to the people to mobilise themselves against the system. This is because corruption tends to individualise benefits and discriminate against those against the corrupt system.

The system weakens opposition by rewarding it with lucrative positions and opportunities. There are several examples to illustrate this.

Recently, several senior opposition members defected to the ruling party, while others were given government appointments as part of weakening those who pressure the government to toe the line.

While those who remain in opposition may still hold the belief that odds are still against the ruling party, they are oblivious of the huge psychological impact these events, mainly defections, have on the electorate. For example, they may be asking themselves that if the senior members of the opposition have lost faith in their party why would supporters on the periphery believe in the same party.

These are genuine concerns created by corruption manipulating the minds and contaminating prospects of economic growth and development.


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Publish date : 2021-10-31 22:00:06

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