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Understanding Bribery in Zimbabwe

Understanding Bribery in Zimbabwe

While a lot of media, political and public attention has been on grand corruption, petty level corruption in the form of bribery has been ignored and undermined. Transparency International defines bribery as the offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal, unethical or a breach of trust. Inducement can take the form of gifts, loans, rewards or other advantages. The 2014 National Corruption Barometer by (TI Z) noted that bribery is the most common form of corruption that citizens and business relate to and experience day to day in their constant interaction with bureaucrats in public institutions.

Bribery in Zimbabwe reflects that the costs of legal compliance are higher than the costs of bribing both in terms of monetary value, time and ease of obtaining a service such as a permit, licence clearance or certificate. Cost implications as calculated in terms of time and money determine whether an individual or entity will choose to bribe or not to bribe when weighed against a cost- benefit analysis. Corruption is a factor when delaying tactics become either the push or pull factor forcing service seekers to voluntarily pay bribes or be forced to pay bribes in order to speed up delivery. The Afro Barometer (2016) indicates that 81.1% of Zimbabweans pay bribes to the police to avoid various problems.

Citizens and business actors bribe to avoid arrest for operating without a regulatory requirement, or to get a service on time. TI Z‘s work with Vendors shows that some vendors bribe municipal police to avoid arrest for selling in non-designated spots. The situation is not different from cross border traders who are forced to bribe ZIMRA officers to smuggle illegal second-hand clothes from Mozambique for resale than declare these and pay substantial import tax. The Youth and Corruption Baseline study report by TI Z noted that unemployed youths would rather bribe a Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) officer to get a driver’s licence than be deliberately failed and remain without a license. Bribery in the Zimbabwean context is therefore an easier and cheaper cost-liability option required either to sustain a livelihood or guarantee in obtaining a service compared to the higher cost of complying. Bribery should therefore be understood and addressed from the premise of cost of compliance.

More so Bribery in Zimbabwe should also be interpreted and understood not from an individualistic actor perspective but rather from an institutional perspective. While bribery is committed by individual actors, it goes beyond the individualistic act and sees the network of power relations endorsed by institutions from which actors derive their power bases. Bribery therefore mirrors the decay and disintegration of key public and private institutions – ones with monopoly and control over key political, economic and social services that citizens and business require. Such services include education, justice, housing, regulation inter alia. Bribery is therefore a reflection of how public institutions have been captured by self-interest of their agents, citizens and business.