Tuesday, January 17, 2012
There is a proverb in Shona that says "Rugare (Pronounced Roo-ga-reh) Tange (Ta-n-ge) Nhamo (Nha-mo)" which roughly means when you think you you have made it finally you are then confronted by new problems. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe will be free again one day, free from tyranny however the euphoria of the freedom will be short lived. Zimbabwe faces a myriad of problems, the majority which are well documented. So of the problems money will be able to solve but for others it will take a committed and a concerted effort from all Zimbabweans to be able to rid the country of a threat bigger than Mugabe.
When Mugabe came to power in 1980 he inherited the second most sophisticated urban infrastructure system South of Sahara, topped only by South Africa. The roads were perfect,there was an efficient public transport consisting of buses and trains that ran on a strict time table, the postal system was good, the health sector was good, though it needed improvement to reach the masses notwithstanding that there was something here for Zanu PF to improve on they were not starting from scratch. In the urban areas one could summon an ambulance and expect it to arrive in few minutes, the schools were the envy of Africa, after all they produced the highest literacy rate in Africa, teaching was a respectable middle class profession that one's parents could aspire their child to be. Cholera and burst sewer pipes was something we read about in science books, and the foreign section of The Herald. The economy was thriving, fixed phone lines worked there were even public phone booths that accepted coins, there were street lights. Most of our basic services were competitive to that offered in the Western world if not at par. The deterioration of Zimbabwe is well documented practical everything has broken down, there is no single public phone booth that works.
The roads will need to be resurfaced potholes will need to be filled, other roads will need a complete upgrade, the sewage system will need to be revamped such that it can serve the growing urban population, the health sector: hospitals will need to refurbished and re-equipped together with properly trained personnel. The school will need to refurbished, re-equipped as well, with adequate qualified personnel. The empty grain silos that once made Zimbabwe the bread basket of Africa will need to be re-stocked, maybe that will require a re-think of the grabbed commercial farms that now lie idle or are underutilised.
Most the work that will need to be done will cost a lot of money, while a new government will be able to attract investment both from foreign and local business. To fund most of the projects will require a progressive taxation system as well as an efficient method of collecting the tax and accounting for it. That said Zimbabwe needs to realise there is another threat that faces the country after Mugabe which could potential halt the overhaul of the entire archaic infrastructure, that threat is corruption. Corruption has permeated every level of the Zimbabwean society, its so endemic that it has become normal to pay or request a bribe. It is actually a point of envy to be well connected with people in places of influence. If you do not know anyone or if you are not prepared to pay a bribe to a civil centre to process your passport you can forget you will ever have one. There is always a big queue at the passport office everyday, the staff there only serve people till midday, so if you do not make it one day before they shut then you will have to wake up early in the morning again and hope you will be the first to be served. even after being served you might find yourself at the back of the queue again because the civil servant behind the counter will reject your passport photos saying they are the wrong size or format however directing you to a photographer who pays him for client referrals. You might come back with the right photos but your application will rot in the system unless you are willing to pay a bribe so that the civil servant whom you are paying through your taxes can do his job. You might have read or you are familiar with the road accidents in Zimbabwe, while the roads are bad, the other biggest cause of road accidents are vehicles which are not road worthy, as well as drink driving. Drinking and driving is a national pastime in Zimbabwe, the drunk drivers have nothing to deter them from drinking and driving. After all they will pay US $5 at the police checkpoint so that they cannot be bothered, same for the owners of cars which are not roadworthy they will just pay their way past the police checkpoint. Even the checkpoints they have been set up to harvest bribes paid by passing motorists whether they have a roadworthy vehicle or not. A joke is told that a policeman gets home is informed by his daughter there is no food, he asks her to pass him the crisp white sleeves that are attached to his police uniform to distinguish him as traffic cop so he can go out and get some cash. Joke or not this is the reality of the level of corruption in Zimbabwe. Its everywhere, you want a place for your son or daughter in a good school well how much is it worth it to the person doing it for you, you want to jump the queue show me the money.
Zimbabwe will need a new elite police force which will fight corruption and both perpetrators will have to face the full wreath of law, the one that offers the bribe and the one that receives it. The notion that theft from the government is victimless should be banished, when you conspire to withhold revenues due to the state not only in terms of taxes but fines that a professional policeman should have charged you for when you drove while drunk then you have stolen from yourself. How will the repair of roads be paid for? A top to down approach will be needed, there is no way that you can get rid of corruption if the very top echelons of the government are corrupt. By arresting and prosecuting senior government officials it will send a message to the everyone that corruption is not tolerated in a new Zimbabwe. Tender awarding will have to be transparent and accountable, and those that flout the tender rules should also face the full wrath of law. A massive re-education will be needed to members of the public as well that they too face prosecution if they have offer a bribe and giving them rewards to report people who ask for a bribe. It should be made clear that everyone has to stand in line wait their turn to be served if a person require an expedited service then they should be willing to official pay a premium that reflects on the speed of service. Remuneration of police officers, civil servants will need to reflect the service they offer to the country, would a a police officer with 25 years of service risk his pension by protecting a rookie who set up an illegal police checkpoint?