Why is corruption a problem in Zimbabwe

Repressions in ZimbabweCrisis, Corruption and Corona

Mbare, a poor neighborhood in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Vangayi Maisiri lives and works here. The 53-year-old grandmother is one of the many street vendors. She has placed soap, flour, rice, sugar, powdered milk and a few other goods on a wooden stool.

But most passers-by don't even look at it, business is bad: "The government has called on us to stay at home because of the corona pandemic, but we simply cannot afford it. I earn this with the sale They were very little anyway, on average just two US dollars a day. But that's better than nothing. "

The vast majority of Zimbabweans, like Maisiri, work in the so-called informal sector; there are hardly any permanent jobs. The economy has been in deep crisis for over a decade.

Fear of famine

Like many of her compatriots, Maisiri had hoped for an upswing when President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power with the help of the military in November 2017, replacing the autocrat Robert Mugabe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa (picture alliance / Photoshot)

After his election victory two years ago, Mnangagwa had promised economic reforms. But this hope was disappointed: "Under Mugabe life was even better. Now it is getting more difficult every day. Prices are rising steadily, since the beginning of the lockdown in March even more drastically than before. When you wake up in the morning, everything has become more expensive again. Corn meal "Oil and meat are almost luxury items. If this continues, I don't know how our family of nine will survive."

(Deutschlandradio / Leonie March) Crisis as an opportunity Dictatorship and military coup, repression and hyperinflation: Zimbabwe's creative scene has been working under extremely difficult conditions for decades. The country is not being discouraged by the corona pandemic - the culture makers react in a casual, flexible and innovative way.

Aid organizations are already warning of a famine. The causes are diverse: In addition to a failed land reform, persistent drought in many regions and the devastating cyclone Idai last year, hyperinflation comes, explains Regina Feindt, country director of German Welthungerhilfe in Zimbabwe: "This is part of our problem that with the introduction of the new currency, which has also lost value again very, very quickly, the overall purchasing power in the country has decreased so massively. We are talking about an inflation rate of 800 percent. That is the inflation rate officially called by the government at the moment, in the food sector it is even higher. And that's very, very sad and scary the way that is developing at the moment. "

Arrests and repression

In addition to the fear of hunger and disease, there is fear of the security forces in the midst of the pandemic. More than 105,000 citizens have been arrested since the lockdown began in March - for example for not wearing face masks, for, it is said, outside for no good reason or, like Vangayi Maisiri, trading on the street to survive.

The street vendor is packing her goods in no time when she sees police officers with dogs turning the corner. This time they leave her alone.

But that is by no means always the case: There are numerous reports of officials who willfully destroy the small stands, confiscate goods, beat traders, whipped or even shoot them.

"As we try to survive here, we have to fight a constant battle with the police. If they catch you, the best they can do is ask for a bribe. But where do we get that? Every day we are harassed here. It's just terrible . "

Legitimacy of the lockdown

Even if a worsening of the situation is hardly conceivable, the situation has worsened in the past few weeks. The background to this was planning for nationwide protests critical of the government, which, however, have so far been largely prevented. The military had cordoned off downtown Harare, imposed a twelve-hour curfew every day, reduced business hours and intensified brutal acts of intimidation against the population.

Human rights lawyer Doug Coltart criticizes that the state justifies this approach with the fight against pandemics: "From a scientific point of view, it makes no sense that the primary measure against COVID-19 is the mass arrest of citizens. The only explanation is that the government is the Exploiting the situation to flex her muscles. She makes it clear that she will persecute anyone who even remotely resists. COVID-19 serves as a justification because tough lockdown measures also have a certain legitimacy internationally. "

The government naturally sees it differently. The lives of the citizens have priority, emphasizes Nick Mangwana, State Secretary of the ruling ZANU-PF party in the Ministry of Information. All regulations and orders served to protect people: "We are in the middle of the storm of the pandemic and we are doing our best. We have set up quarantine stations and drawn up treatment plans since March. Our hospitals and intensive care units are ready to admit patients. Our greatest challenge is Right now some nurses and doctors are on strike. If we can get them to go back to work, then we are no worse off than other nations. "

Hospital staff without protective clothing

The demands of the strikers sound very different: For months, the staff of state hospitals have been pointing out the devastating working conditions.

Nurse Samson Gurupira (Privilege Musvanhiri)

But these protests were also put down, and nurses like Samson Gurupira were even temporarily arrested: "This proves that we are dealing with an unscrupulous government that does not even take into account the voices of those people who are supposed to ensure the health of the population in this crisis . We have no protective clothing, hardly any medical face masks, not enough medication, everything is in short supply. I don't know if the government lacks the money or if they just don't want to help. What I know is that we are all afraid to Work to go. "

In addition to basic medical equipment, staff in state hospitals are demanding that salaries be paid in US dollars in view of the hyperinflation, and not in the local currency, which is weakening every day. Gurupira complains that his monthly salary has already fallen to less than 30 US dollars at the current exchange rate. But he is biting granite with the government. The state simply cannot afford that, stresses Nick Mangwana.

These words sound like mockery to the nurse. Of course, he knows about the dire economic situation in his homeland, but he also knows that enormous sums of money are trickling away into dark channels.

Journalists risk life and limb

In June, for example, it was revealed that Minister of Health Moyo had commissioned shady supply contracts for medical supplies to combat corona for a total of 60 million dollars at completely inflated prices. The price of a face mask was roughly the same as a nurse's monthly salary. Moyo was released and charged with abuse of office, but is now bailed out.

Gurupira makes this angry: "The minister was fired, but is a free man, is protected by bodyguards and continues to live richly. He is just one of many. The people in power here only think about it how to make corrupt deals to enrich yourself. People like Moyo have nothing to fear, they are inviolable. "

While the health minister did not have to remain in custody, the journalist who exposed the scandal is now behind bars. The payment of a bail was refused because it represented a "danger to the public", as it was said.

Three weeks ago, Hopewell Chin'ono filmed men breaking down his door and breaking into his house, and he alerted his followers on social media about his arrest with the short video clip. A tactic that also serves to protect yourself.

Anti-corruption protest in Zimbabwe: two women with masks hold placards. (AFP / Zinyange Auntony)

Because regime critics in Zimbabwe disappear again and again without a trace, emphasizes the spokeswoman for the opposition MDC Alliance, Fadzayi Mahere, at a virtual crisis meeting of the "Southern African Liaison Office" (SALO), a civil society organization in southern Africa: "A kidnapping of opposition activists follows We know what happened in mid-May to my three MDC colleagues, who peacefully protested against growing hunger. They were kidnapped, tortured and sexually assaulted at the behest of the state. Instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice, the women were arrested. They are accused of having faked all this. "

A few days later, Mahere himself was arrested, but released on bail after spending a night in a dirty, overcrowded prison cell. It is one of many arrests on July 31, the day anti-corruption protests were planned across the country.

In addition to members of the opposition and civil society activists, ordinary citizens were arrested again. Your offense: You had stood alone or in small groups with posters on the side of the road: It said, for example: "Arrest the looters of the COVID aid funds", "Free Hopewell", or "We cannot breathe, corruption steals our air".

When asked about these arrests, government member Nick Mangwana said: "We do not want corruption to spread any further. It is a scourge. So the call for an end to corruption is legitimate. But the conclusion and timing are wrong. How can one Call for protests in a pandemic? People also demand in the same breath that our ZANU-PF government should be ousted. But that is not decided on the street, there are mechanisms for that. An impeachment procedure in parliament, for example People know, however, that they don't have a majority there. So we're dealing with a small, insane fringe group that is trying to disrupt the constitutional order. We won't let that happen. "

"Pattern of Intimidation"

As in the Mugabe era, the government suspects the masterminds in the west. The US ambassador has been labeled a criminal. The supposed allies in the opposition party MDC called President Mnangagwa "terrorist" and stressed that he would wash Zimbabwe clean of all those who wanted to divide the country. The United Nations sees this as a "pattern of intimidation". The impression arises that this lockdown is more of a democracy than a pandemic.

ZANU-PF State Secretary Nick Mangwana (Privilege Musvanhiri)

Nick Mangwana says: "The short answer is: This is nonsense. And if I am to say: Nobody was shot here in Zimbabwe in the course of the lockdown. Unlike in the USA or in South Africa. So we have to deal with people do that take advantage of the current situation to fuel political tensions in our country. "

This interpretation is enough for the government to justify taking tough action against political opponents. And so there are still reports of brutal arrests, kidnappings and mistreatment almost daily. Experience shows that the police and the military do not have to fear any consequences.

The regime has great influence on the judiciary and wants to expand it through constitutional amendments. Soldiers have been patrolling the streets since the fall of Robert Mugabe in November 2017. This reinforces the impression that Zimbabwe is now ruled by a military regime.

A military regime?

Political scientist Ringisai Chikohomero speaks of a power clique made up of the military and politicians: "We have to look back at what happened in 2017 to understand the current situation in Zimbabwe. Emmerson Mnangagwa was not a popular person at the time. He was transferred from the military to the office of president The chief judge, a former general, made sure that this coup was recognized as constitutional. So the military is the guarantor of this regime. Noteworthy was a press conference in June at which the military insisted that they were not planning another coup It has thus responded to rumors in the top management. So there is a possibility, albeit without solid evidence, that there are certain discrepancies and that something is in the bush. "

The political scientist emphasizes that there are rival interest groups in both the military and the ruling ZANU-PF party. These wing battles could be more dangerous to Mnangagwa than the opposition. "At the moment one cannot speak of a strong political opposition. It is fragmented, unable to organize itself on a broad front or to mobilize the population. It does not think strategically, it does not consider how it could reorganize itself or become a unit again . "

Zimbabwe needs a national healing process, a dialogue between the political parties, says MDC Alliance spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere. Despite the ongoing hostility, the repression and the deep ideological rifts: "We call on the ZANU-PF to sit down with us at the table, lay down their political arms and focus on the people. That is in view of our national crisis urgently needed. Political egos must no longer be a matter of concern.

Attempts to mediate have failed

However, political scientist Ringisai Chikohomero criticizes this demand by ignoring political realities: "We are no longer in the year 2008. At that time it was clear that the MDC had won the election and yet the ruling party was not ready to give up power. Nowadays ZANU-PF has no reason to have a dialogue with anyone, it can simply rule: it has a two-thirds majority in parliament, it has control of the economy, raw materials and the central bank, and it is perfect unclear exactly how this national dialogue should look like and what aim is being pursued with it. "

In view of the increasing repression, the opposition and activists are now turning to other countries for help. They canvassing for support using the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter. After weeks of silence, South Africa has now also expressed concern for the first time and started diplomatic talks.

The calls for help for regional and international intervention seem to be fading. At most it remains with expressions of solidarity. In the past, too, all attempts at mediation from outside have ultimately failed.

Weakened civil society

Nevertheless, the situation is not hopeless, says human rights lawyer Doug Coltart. Even with drastic violence, the regime will not be able to suppress the increasing criticism in its own country: "I do not believe that the government's tactics are having the desired effect. On the contrary: We are now getting to see the real face of the regime, that of an authoritarian military regime that takes action against its own citizens. This means that the support of the population is dwindling. The regime is trying to destroy the opposition in the country and seems to be making progress in the short term, but this calculation will not work out in the long term. "

Human rights lawyer Doug Coltart (Privilege Musvanhiri)

But the dissatisfaction of the citizens alone will not change anything, countered the political scientist Chikohomero. Not only the political opposition but also civil society has been weakened after decades of autocracy and repression.

Zimbabwe is miles away from a citizens' uprising: "The question of whether we have citizens or subjects has been in the room for some time. I tend strongly to the latter. The basis for a popular uprising simply does not exist, and the history of our country also speaks on the other hand. The dynamics, the behavior and the relationship between citizens and the state have always been shaped by the fact that a small elite rules their subjects. "

This was already the case under Robert Mugabe, in whose autocratic footsteps his former ally and successor Emmerson Mnangagwa followed. The power structures in the country have hardened. Despite the dramatic escalation, there is no solution in sight to this crisis.

Collaboration in Harare: Privilege Musvanhiri