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Zimbabwe can mirror Singapore in the fight against Corruption

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By The Solutions Tower Staff.

WHILE the scourge of corruption has been having a huge toll on the viability of the Zimbabwean economy, there seems to be no solution on the horizon. It is, therefore, important to unpack how other countries, such as Singapore, have managed to curb corruption.

Among other things, there is also need to adopt community psychology and public trust doctrines as strategies for combating corruption in Zimbabwe. The post-colonial government in Singapore inherited a corrupt infested city state from the British colonial powers, but today the country is credited for having curbed corruption.

The nature and forms of corruption in Zimbabwe are multifaceted. However, the root causes are directly linked to political and governance systems that thrive on favouritism and nepotism.  Favouritism denotes an act of preferring friends, family and anybody close and trusted, while nepotism is the form of favouritism in which appointments to key positions are given to relatives and family members (Amundsen, 1999).

Bribery has been on the increase in Zimbabwe, and is now becoming part of the country’s culture. The problem of bribery is directly linked to a culture of negotiation, where the people of Zimbabwe now believe they can negotiate anything they want, even if such things are outside the law.

Singapore succeeded in fighting corruption because of the presence of a clear strategy which is buttressed by clear and effective anti-corruption laws, an effective anti-corruption agency, effective adjudication or punishment procedures, and an efficient public administrative system.

Above all, the past colonial government has demonstrated its political will to make Singapore a corrupt free state since the 1960s. It is argued that political will is vital for ensuring an effective anti-corruption strategy. In the case of clear and effective anti-corruption laws, Singapore is outstanding because its laws are designed to reduce confusion in their application, and increase effective implementation.

It can be noted that in Singapore, the anti-corruption laws are applied even to corruption committed by the Singapore citizens outside their country, and such cases are treated as if they were committed within the borders of Singapore. Those convicted of having received bribes are required by law to surrender the equivalent amount of what they would have received. In addition, those campaigning for political offices are required by law to declare all the gifts they receive during the campaign periods.

More so, goodwill gifts normally associated with the festive seasons cannot be received in disguise while in actual facts they are briberies. Zimbabwe can also learn from Singapore to develop an effective enforcement mechanism. Thomas Hobbes, one of the greatest social contract advocates, defending his idea of an absolute monarchy, argues that agreements without swords are but words.

In Singapore, the enforcement mechanism of anti-corruption laws is effective because the Corrupt Practises Investigation Bureau (CPIB)  is not only independent, but was made the sole agency with powers to investigate corruption offences. Thus, any other law enforcement agency which comes across or receives reports on corruption will have to hand over the case to CPIB.

The independence of the CPIB is guaranteed by the Constitution, and in the event that the incumbent government blocks investigation of some corruption cases, the future president can cause for the opening of such.

The anti-corruption bureau in Singapore endeavours to execute its duties in a swift manner. It is argued that “swift action suggests promptness of action, speed and timeliness while sure action suggests certainty of action, resoluteness and result orientedness”.

This is contrasted with the Zimbabwean case where cases under investigation can go for decades without reaching conclusions. Zimbabwe has proved to be weak on adjudicating corruption cases, especially those involving high ranking politicians.

In Singapore, the judiciary successfully created a regime of punishment that is deterrent enough to hammer home, loud and clear, the message that corruption does not pay. Any public officer convicted of corruption will usually be sentenced to jail. In recent years, even offenders from the private sector convicted of corruption offences were sentenced to serve time in the prison.

The Zimbabwean government can also benefit from utilising community psychology in its fight against corruption. While the concept of community psychology has been primarily utilised in the promotion of social transformation of marginalised groups (Dari and Hamauswa, 2016), it could also be a useful tool for fighting corruption. This is because, when viewed from community psychology perspectives, corruption is conceived of as socially constructed through inequalities in societies (Heather, 1976)

Therefore, community psychology is vital for building critical social assets such as emancipatory education, social action, community mobilisation and citizen participation. This means everyone would be involved in the fight against corruption. It can be noted that the Zimbabwean government has a lot to learn from Singapore’s experience and strategies of fighting corruption.

In short, effective laws are needed, and should be supported by effective systems of implementation and adjudication. The anti-corruption commission in Zimbabwe needs to be independent, and its roles and powers specifically outlined and protected by the Constitution.

Above all, a good system of governance is important in forming the basis for effective anti-corruption strategy.

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