Home » Human Rights » Corruption Hits Women, Youth Hardest

Walking in the central business district in Harare last week, I came across a group of vendors, mostly women, in running battles with the municipal police for selling their wares on “illegal vending sites”.

The altercation ensued for a few minutes with the vendors pleading with the municipal cops to release their wares, which had been loaded into a waiting truck.

After sometime, one of the municipal employees muttered something to his colleagues, followed by a brief discussion among the vendors, who now appeared lively and were now co-operating.

Soon after, one of the female vendors exchanged a “firm handshake” with one of the municipal guys, who immediately ordered the release of the confiscated goods, before jumping into the car and driving off.

Because I was a spitting distance from the melee, I did not get the content of the discussion.

It was only after the municipal team had left that I concluded that money had exchanged hands.

Even the vendors confirmed the transaction, saying it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Corruption has become an endemic problem that Zimbabwe is grappling with.

The country has in the last few years witnessed a rise in corruption, not only in the big offices and public institutions, but across the board, a development that has resulted in the country losing millions of dollars in lost revenues, and business opportunities that would have benefited and boosted the economy.

Last year the media was awash with stories on corruption, looting of public funds, abuse of office and general mismanagement and poor corporate governance in the public sector.

Sadly, this vice has become endemic and is heavily entrenched in Zimbabwe’s societal values and its downstream effects have hurt the ordinary person most.

It has become the norm for individuals and organisations alike to pay for services and products that under normal circumstances should be for free.

Because corruption is crime of opportunity, individuals entrusted with public service and resources are now demanding payment upfront from individuals and organisations, further entrenching the vice that the country is trying to do away with.

Ms Judith Kaulem, a spokesperson for Poverty Reduction Forum Trust, recently noted that the problem of corruption in Zimbabwe has aersely affected the country’s general populace, mainly women, who have to grapple with the issue of food security within homes and the community at large.

The mention of corruption often conjures images of people getting rich but in fact, corruption’s connection to poverty is actually very serious and needs to be interrogated.

There is more poverty created by poverty than there is wealth or riches.

While the nation has been focusing on high levels of corruption and its impact, society has actually turned a blind eye on the different forms of downstream corruption that has had a direct impact on the poor, mainly women and the youth.

These included bribes, penalties for street vending and other illegal payments that ordinary citizenry come across on a daily service, in order to access goods and services.

Most poor men and women whose families survive on proceeds from street vending have to ensure daily running battles with municipal police and are forced to pay bribes to avoid such battles.

If a vendor records $10 of sales on a good day, his or her efforts will come to nothing, if he or she has to pay $3 a day to municipal police so that they are allowed to vend in the streets.

Where a woman has to access health services for free at government hospitals, they end up bribing staff there in order to get treatment, while police officers at numerous roadblocks fleece commuter omnibus crews of their hard-earned cash.

The amounts dropped at each point might seem small but relative to the limited cash at the poor woman or man’s disposal, they are substantial.

The problem of corruption has further dug deeper on deteriorating social services at a time when the nation is hoping to move forward

While many organisations are not able to quantify the cost of corruption because of the different facets it has taken, the problem has become endemic with serious negative and long-term consequences, which in most cases affect the poor most.

Corruption supports, stabilises and deepens all forms of inequality in societies, a situation that requires concerted effort to fight against all forms of corrupt tendencies.

Corruption has a negative impact on the livelihood of the generality of the population in that when public funds are misused the effect culminates in low service delivery, low literate levels and poor health.

The nation has a responsibility to protect the poor by shunning all forms of corruption.

Source : The Herald