Unbridled greed now out of control: media must shine the light

Greed and Corruption make a very nasty brew, one that can only thrive and grow in the dark. We need light in these dark places and must remember that light always defeats darkness. When we discover what is being done to us, we then need a democratic revolution to sweep away the debris and bring in a new generation that will restore sanity to our public affairs, writes EDDIE CROSS.

Sometimes living in Zimbabwe is like living in a mental asylum where the inmates are in charge. Last week we learned that the Chief Executive of a local medical aid society (PMAS) has been paying himself US$200 000 a month. In all the top eight executives in this cash-strapped, highly indebted institution, that is months behind in paying the medical profession that serves its members, over US$1 million a month in basic salaries. This implies that their total packages may be worth significantly more than this.

This news was accompanied by a story that the Board of the PMAS was going to “slash” his salary to US$60 000 a month – in itself an outrageous amount for a small organisation that cannot pay its way. In fact just recently we discovered that the State Broadcasting Corporation was paying its CEO a package of US$40 000 a month and that sparked outrage across the country as the ZBC had not paid its staff for months. I am told that this state of affairs prevails across the Board in Government institutions and parastatals.

We are a very poor country with a GDP of about US$16 billion – that’s about $100 a month for the average person. Here we have one individual paying himself 2000 times that as a basic wage! What do the guys at the bottom on less than $30 a month (over half the population) think about that?

Just drive around the wealthy suburbs of Harare and you would think you were in Hollywood – not some low income, Fourth World State where more than half the population is close to starvation. Africa, the poorest continent in the world, has created many billionaires – most of them live in a murky world of clandestine deals and trades. Oprah Winfrey may well be challenged for the top spot as the wealthiest woman in the world by the daughter of the President of Angola – although her wealth and status is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.

Then there is the scourge of corruption in Africa. There is corruption everywhere but no other continent has been infected by this particular disease on such a scale and in proportion to its wealth and production. Transparency International estimates that corrupt transfers out of Africa far exceed the total value of all foreign aid to the continent (AID is about US$40 billion a year). Others estimate that the leadership of Angola misappropriates a third of gross oil receipts. In a recent scam in Nigeria one company was responsible for the theft of $6,9 billion in oil revenues. Even on a global basis these are staggering sums of money.

In Zimbabwe, prior to the formation of the National Government in 2009, Zanu (PF) and its acolytes were stealing an estimated US$1,6 billion year from the state and stripping the agricultural industry in a looting spree of many billions of dollars’ worth of assets accumulated over the previous 100 years by dint of hard work and enterprise by thousands of ordinary people. Then when the criminal elite discovered alluvial diamonds, the system went into overdrive. In a feeding frenzy that would rival a flock of vultures anywhere, they descended on this particular carcass and in six years stripped it of an estimated $12 billion in raw diamonds that flooded the world market.

Despite all the rhetoric about transparency and accountability and all the evidence of the Zimbabwean presence in the world market (experts say we supply 30 per cent of global demand in a market worth $20 billion a year), not one cent was paid to the Exchequer in 2013 and the Minister has not budgeted for a dime to be received in 2014. Private jets fly into the air base in Harare or land at the sophisticated facilities in Marange, they do not clear customs or emigration and they refuse to allow our Tax Authorities access.

The truth is that no country can develop if it indulges in such practices. Yet what can its people do to bring these crazy practices under greater control and limit the drain on our hard won economic output? Democracy is supposed to curb these gross violations. But democracy in most African countries is a joke. Hard men and women are in charge and they keep the general population in a state of serfdom. Like European feudal Lords of earlier centuries, they live like Kings in palaces and flaunt their wealth and power, robbing the very poor of their surplus and livelihood.

They know how to play the game and they treat the major nations of the world with studied distain. African States work on the global need for stability and offer this in place of real democracy and the rule of law. When their real interests are challenged, they move swiftly to defend their “sovereignty” and independence. The welfare of their countries and their people seldom factor in their plans.

Media must investigate

One solution is greater transparency and here we must applaud the local media for publishing these obscene salaries. They should now move on other subjects of a similar nature. For example:

– A Reserve Bank Governor who owed the banks he supervised tens of millions of dollars and used his powers to punish banks that attempted to collect from him;

– New farmers who not only occupy farms they acquired illegally but compound this with millions of dollars of equipment supplied by the Reserve Bank or the Ministry of Agriculture;

– Ministries that have been hiding over-expenditure by buying on credit from the private sector and then refusing to acknowledge the debt or simply ignoring the liabilities;

– A Minister of Mines (now Transport) who suddenly becomes (overnight) the largest road haulage contractor in Zimbabwe, the owner of a bank, the publisher of a daily newspaper, the owner of many buildings and lodges and hotels as well as farms and massive cattle holdings, all on a salary of $2500 a month:

– A Minister of Local Government who suddenly owns hundreds of properties in many towns and cities, plus expensive cars and homes;

– Diamond moguls who own luxury properties in foreign cities, buy airbus jets and others and who own significant and expensive real estate in South Africa.

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