guest column:Prosper Maguchu

The world’s most cited anti-corruption measurement — the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International for the year 2019 was released on January 23 this year.

At the bottom, the CPI measures scores and ranks countries around the world based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. Zimbabwe has scored a mere 24.

The CPI uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

That is to say, the country has not improved in its fight against corruption in the past four years.

Significantly, the CPI scores reflect the views of experts and businesspeople, not the general public as such. It is arguably the most widely-recognised measure of public-sector corruption barometer.

For this reason, the CPI continues to be an important gauge by companies in assessing corruption risks before conducting businesses in foreign countries.

Therefore, it goes to the core of the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra and the country’s efforts to attract foreign businesses. As common sense dictates, investors dislike highly corrupt environments.

Corruption is a key issue upon which countries are judged by investors, thus if there is anything Zimbabwe can learn from other countries, it is to take the CPI seriously.

The CPI takes on a different theme each year. This year the CPI report highlights the relationship between politics, money and corruption.

This topic is both timely and relevant in Zimbabwe, especially at this juncture where cases of corrupt businesspeople with strong ties to politicians have been on the increase.

Let us never forget that certain names have dominated the news on allegations of corruption, names of politically connected individuals who have reportedly looted billions of dollars meant for the government-controlled Soviet-styled “Command Agriculture”, and some connected individuals are looting millions of dollars meant to import maize to alleviate famine faced by more than seven million Zimbabweans.

Countries use the CPI as a benchmark to measure their progress. Zimbabwe is presented with an opportunity to evaluate all the anti-corruption measures put in place by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his early days in office.

Difficult questions should now be asked if these key legal reforms and institutional reforms have failed.

Lessons can be learned from Angola, a country that was under autocratic rule of Eduardo Jose Dos Santos for 40 years until 2017, but has managed to improve seven scores upwards on the CPI.

Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that the fight against corruption is not politically neutral.

Mnangagwa needs to see beyond party politics to address the scourge of corruption.

Some of those with political power want to maintain the status quo. This fight cannot be won without genuine political reforms. Then again, the experience of other African countries indicated that networks of corrupt officials tend to regroup in about two years, as well as that major changes could only be made in the first 18 months of a new government coming into power.

This is conventional wisdom; the logic of the argument being that new leaders will be less tied to existing patron–client networks, and more inclined to reform.

For Zimbabwe, the anti-corruption war maybe too little too late!

 Prosper Simbarashe Maguchu LLM is a researcher at a political-legal think tank based in the Netherlands specialising on anti-corruption, serious crime, conspiracies and human rights. He also volunteers as the international co-ordinator for the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.