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Opinion

The sick man of southern Africa

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ZIMBABWE has once again emerged as the most corrupt country in southern Africa, according to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index released this week.

The rankings show that Seychelles is the least corrupt nation on the continent, followed by Botswana, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Mauritius and Namibia.

On the opposite end of the scale, the most corrupt country in Africa is South Sudan, followed by Somalia, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In southern Africa, Zimbabwe takes the cup in the corruption stakes, followed by Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Zambia and Eswatini.

On the global stage, the least corrupt country is Denmark, followed by New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway.

There is a lot we can glean from these rankings.

First, it is clear that corruption is a major factor contributing to the crisis that democracy finds itself in worldwide.

Although we are alive to the realisation that no country under the sun is completely free of corruption, it is important to acknowledge the irrefutable link between the level of democracy in a country and the ruinous impact of corruption.

Evidence of this abounds in Africa, where the bulk of the world’s most corrupt nations are found. South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea are chaotic dictatorships wrecked by conflict, impunity, collapse of the rule of law and severe governance deficits.

Zimbabwe’s catastrophic economic failings–characterised by rising levels of extreme poverty, weak institutions, chronic high inflation, runaway unemployment, plummeting quality of life, mass exodus of economic refugees and general decay in infrastructure–are sticking out like a sore thumb in southern Africa.

It should not surprise anyone that the region’s most autocratic country–the only state directly run and controlled by an entitled military–is also the worst-managed economy in the neighbourhood.

Zimbabweans are paying a high price. The flow of foreign direct investment to this country is the lowest in the region.

The social cost is staggering. Typically, the most corrupt nations fare dismally in delivering crucial health and education services.

This is the logical outcome of leadership failure and bad governance.

In recent years, the Zimbabwean government has sought to portray itself as a serious fighter of corruption.

But real action on the ground is not convincing. An objective measure of this is how, in a country endowed with vast natural resources, children continue sleeping on empty stomachs. Where is the mineral wealth going?

Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crisis will only be solved by cleaning up the country’s dysfunctional and illegitimate politics. There are no shortcuts to prosperity.

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