Institutional decay is the bane of Zimbabwean politics


By Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi


Good governance is a function of sound institutions. The mandate of a government is to protect its
citizens, and to ensure that even the poorest among them have access to basic services.

Typically these services include education, basic health care, safe drinking water up to old age pensions and support for the disabled. Governments set up a variety of state institutions to provide these services, such as police forces, public works, education ministries, public health services, water authorities, and so on.

Zimbabwe’s deterioration can be alluded to one primary issue; Institutional decay. The main feeders of
this scourge being, “Party-nizing” the state, corruption, nepotism, tribalisation and “clan-nisation” of
state institutions, selective application of rules and laws, gross inconsequential incompetence, populist
and impromptu policies, and the blatant disregard for the rule of law.

One can fill a page citing all the institutions that have been eroded or even annihilated. Most state
parastatals from national railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), the Grain Marketing Board (GMB),
Dairyboard Zimbabwe, Ziscosteel, GND, National Breweries, Cold Storage Commission (CSC), Bata.
Post and Telecommunications Company (PTC), POSB, Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation, ZESA and many others have either totally collapsed or lost their efficiency and prestige.

Failure to separate party from state

The failure to separate state from party by ZANU-PF is one of the reasons that has fed the institutional
decay. While it would be naive to expect a political party which has won the mandate to govern by the
electorate not to deploy its “cadres” within the state institutions, the blurring of lines of what is state
institution and what is party must not leave the consciousness of the deployee.

While on the surface this may not be clearly visible even to ZANU-PF sympathisers, one sees the uneven application of the law and abuse of state institutions against political “enemies”.

Cases of this selective application of the law include the Mary Chiwenga saga, the Ignatious Chombo
corruption saga, Prisca Mupfumira, Joram Gumbo and others who would have fallen out of favour with

What is stark about these cases is the realization that state institutions would have been
aware of criminal conduct by those representing their party and while they held favour they were
immunised from prosecution.

This amounts to personalisation of the state authority categorised institutions.

The Matopo and Ntabazinduna attempted farm takeovers as well as the recent reports of Saviour
Kasikuwere’s farm seizure are among other such wanton and spontaneous selective abuses in the
application of law leading to the rotting of law enforcement institutions.

It has become a norm that any minister can use their office arbitrarily and rampantly and this says little of the sanctity of state establishments.

Devilish deeds

Political “actors”, using state institutions are quick to pounce on sometimes irrelevant cases like that of
Munyaradzi Shoko, a well-known critic of Mnangagwa, who was held after he posted statements on
Facebook saying the president’s name was “generally associated with evil and devilish deeds.”

Munyaradzi is but one of the many cases where blatant misuse of state authoritative institutions and
their whimsical use has only gained them loss of trust but subsequently exposed their decay.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is such a decayed institution which has become a mere arm of ZANUPF
to suppress its intended clientèle, the citizen of Zimbabwe and uphold one of its missions which is
to “protect and secure the lives and property of the people”.


The deployment of human resources in state institutions also has connotations of tribal, clan and
nepotist constitution. Many nepotist appointments can be cited including the recent appointment of
“Mnangagwa’s nephew” Edwin Manikai, as the chairman of PAC. The Bona Mugabe Censorship
board appointment also comes to mind.

There are loud cries by many Matebeleland groups and individuals on the deployments that seem to be deliberately tribal in nature. There tends to be a tendency to see tribal swelling of ranks according to which tribe the head of department or national leader emanates from – with the current leadership band apparently tending to be of Karanga origin where previously its seen that the higher ranks were swelled with Zezurus.

There have been accusation and belief that the deployers particularly of “Shona” origin have intent to marginalise certain tribes and particularly the Ndebele tribes. This creates an air of animosity and thus tends to weaken the value of state institutions.


Corruption and gross incompetence is one of the core feeders of institutional decay. Zimbabwe has seen multiple scandals but not much consequences. Some of the scandals are well-known and include the 1987 – Zisco Steel blast Furnace Scandal, 1987 – Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal – $ 100 million, 1986 – National Railways Housing Scandal, 1988 – Willowgate Scandal, 1989 – ZRP Santana Scandal, 1994 – War Victims Compensation Scandal, 1995 – GMB Grain Scandal, 1996 – VIP Housing Scandal, 1998 – Boka Banking Scandal, 1998 – ZESA YTL Soltran Scandal, 1998 – Telecel Scandal, 1998 – Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal, 1999 – Housing Loan Scandal, 1999 – Noczim Scandal 1999 – DRC timber and diamond Un reported scandals, 1999 – GMB Scandal, 1999 – Ministry of water and rural development Chinese tender scandal, 1999 – VIP Land Grab Scandal, 2001 – Harare
Airport Scandal, 2008-2014 – Airport Road Scandal, 2016 – Mnangagwa Command Agriculture
Scandal, 2018 -Zesa scam Involving Samuel Undenge’s criminal abuse of office. “One common feature
in these scandals is that most of the key suspects went scot-free and in some cases they would hibernate for some time before being re-appointed after the passage of time.”

The 23 cases

The auditor-general Mrs Mildred Chiri in her 2017 report writes; “My audit revealed entities which are
facing challenges in providing services sustainably. I reported twenty- three (23) of such cases and
these include ZESA Holdings and its subsidiaries, GMB, NRZ, Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited,
ZIMPARKS, ZIPAM, ZIMPOST, Allied Timbers and NUST among others. MMCZ, the Government’s
strategic mineral marketer had been operating without a General Manager for the past six (6) years.
This was also the case with Petrotrade which has operated for four (4) years without a substantive
Chief Executive Officer.

Agricultural Marketing Authority did not have a Chief Executive Officer since May 2017.

Accountability issues have continued to affect the country’s airline, Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited.
Its most recent audited financial statements relate to the 2010 financial year.

Air Zimbabwe had sixteen (16) issues that led to a disclaimer of opinion. Among the issues noted was
the entity’s inability to provide supporting documentation for transactions entered into.

Of concern were unsubstantiated debit and credit entries amounting to $213 million and $168 million
respectively. The financial statements also included a suspense account of $22 million and the entity
could not provide supporting documents for expenditure amounting to $17 million.”

Allowances without approval

The auditor-general says her audit revealed entities whose boards increased their allowances without
approval from the parent Ministries. Such boards included NOIC, ZBC, MSU and Competition and
Tariff Commission.

She also noted weak internal controls over cash and banking. NOIC Feruka depot was using the
assistant depot manager `s personal bank account for administering cash transactions for the company.

The same obtained for ZINARA which was disbursing cash to provinces through employees` personal
bank accounts. Bulawayo School of Hospitality and Tourism had cash receipts which were not banked
and could not be accounted for.

The School also could not account for $9 100 cash given to officers for procurement of goods and
services. Remittance of statutory and other obligations such as NSSA, medical aid and pensions is a
continual issue in her reports.

The notable cases were Printflow ($2 309 745), Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration and
Management ($810 758), Forestry Commission ($1 408 960), Powertel Communications (Private)
Limited (904 564) and Zimbabwe Power Company ($666 197).

CMED (Private) Limited did not remit maintenance garnish orders amounting to $26 868 to the
detriment of the welfare of the concerned children.

In the 2018-19 report she makes further damning findings on more of the institutions, with some being repeat offenders.

Well at the auditor-general is one of those functional state institutions which just seems to get ignored! This makes it toothless and leads to its near irrelevance and leaves it in a state of decay!

Unprewdicable and impromptu policies

Unpredictable and impromptu policies are an albatross and ruination of an economy and optimal
functioning of a state.

An example in point is the the precipitous announcement of statutory instruments like the SI142/2019.
This announcement has created parallel trading and payment difficulties for businesses- where the local currency isn’t gaining much trust from the market.

This has led to another announcement which but contradicts the very statute where ZUVA fuel stations were selectively permitted to sell in foreign currency. This isn’t the only arena where policy was made at heat of moment and leading to detrimental effects.

During an election storm, ZANU-PF announced that residents debts were to be cut off and many residents stopped servicing their debts to municipalities. Talk of cutting your nose to spite your face!


The courts which are a key state institution also seem to be in such decay and one is tempted to see
them as utilised by individuals and groups to make unsound judgements, from sanitization of the 2017
coup, to the recent ruling that if one was owed for example USD1000 they can be paid with
RTGS1000. Such wanton robbery!

The RBZ is one institution of great importance to the state and the economy which is beyond decay and
is now another albatross to economic recovery. Accusations by various quarters including the recent
rants by Tsenengamu and Matutu show an institution at the whim of private hands and feared to be
controlled by “cartels”.

The poor have little access to the judiciary

Where government programs of targeted assistance exist, they contribute but a little in poor people’s
struggles to survive, yet they do not help them to move out of poverty.

Corruption which is a main feeder of institutional rot directly affects the poor, and the poor have widespread and intimate experience of corruption in health, education, water, land access, government-provided relief, and social assistance where it is available.

In addition, the poor have little access to the judiciary, and they fear rather than seek protection from
the police. Poor people’s interactions with representatives of the state leave them feeling powerless,
unheard, and silenced.

The poor are particularly vulnerable, and the new poor feel bewildered, crushed, and angry as they
experience many barriers in trying to access government-provided services.

These include bureaucratic hurdles, rules and regulations, the need for documents, and difficulties in accessing information. There is often collusion or overlap those in governance and the elite. If not outright collusion, the elite at least have direct access to and influence over officials.

The unsustainability of such rot of the nation’s institutions is of dire and urgent risk to the nation’s

Most of the institutions are now largely ineffective and irrelevant in the lives of the poor.

Ultimately there is loss of trust in the state and this disjoint perpetuates the country’s downturn.
Zimbabwe needs a complete turnaround of its institutions to gain back its economic and social standing in the world.

Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi is the National Secretary for Information and Publicity for the Zimbabwe Communist Party. He is also the spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, an organisation that represents thousands of Zimbabwean living in South Africa on documentation, legal to social issues affecting them. The views shared here do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Zimbabwe Digital News or its affiliates.



You cannot criminalise a whole community because of one miscreant


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