Kleptocracy is a term that is applied when describing a state in which high-ranking officials take advantage of governmental corruption to extend their personal wealth and/or political power fundamentally through the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service.

The characteristics of a kleptocracy are:

The elite in society utilize political power to enrich themselves at the expense of wider social services and the general well-being of citizens.

Political power is condensed so that an elite holds the majority of the control over government.

Programs which benefit those who are not elite are subverted in order to increase the amount of money available to be shifted to the elite.

Institutions of the state squash dissent from the status-quo.

The ongoing salary-gate saga (an exposé of state entity bosses who have been awarding themselves ludicrous salaries that run into tens of thousands of American dollars per month in Zimbabwe; the second poorest country in the world) has raised questions about the maladmistration of state institutions in the country and the sincerity of government when it comes to tackling graft.

While I would not define Zimbabwe as an absolute kleptocracy as were Mobutu Sese Seko’s Congo or Sani Abacha’s Nigeria, my concern is that the country faces the danger of descending into the clutches of complete kleptomania if corruption is not urgently addressed.

But the question is how did we get here? How did we get to a point where a C.E.O of a medical aid society earns some USD $250, 000 per month while the members who contribute monthly to that society cannot access basic medical services?

In a work entitled “Re-Living the Second Chimurenga” Fay Chung, a Zimbabwe liberation war activist and a former minister of Education argues, “Structural Adjustment saw the entry of new leaders into ZANU-PF.

“These leaders had not taken part in the difficult pre-independence liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, but had joined the ruling party after it got into power in order to promote their business prospects, which remained closely linked to political patronage.

“Known as the mafikizolo, or newly arrived, they integrated themselves into the party leadership.

“Thus by the 1990s, the new leadership within ZANU-PF began to outnumber those who had been in the liberation struggle. These new leaders became millionaires and billionaires through their political connections. They, like the wealthy whites before them, tended to expatriate their wealth, rather than investing inside the country.”

Now, ZANU-PF held its 14th National People’s Conference from 10th – 14th December 2013 under the theme, “ZIM ASSET: Growing the Economy for Empowerment and Employment”.

Some of the notable resolutions that emerged at the conference were:

to instruct the government to ensure that food relief is available and reaches the vulnerable and needy communities throughout the country

to urge the government to improve the living standards of the citizenry for an empowered society and a growing economy

that both the party and the government should implement zero tolerance against corruption in all spheres of public and private life.

Based upon these resolutions, kudos to Professor Jonathan Moyo, The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services who unilaterally spearheaded that salary-gate exposé. The fact is that Zimbabwe has for too long blamed hostile external factors for its internal problems.

In fact the salary-gate revelations have exposed the self-sanctioned profligacy within non-performing public service providers where various executives have been earning amounts ranging between USD$30, 000 and USD$250, 000 per month.

Put plainly, the salary-gate scandal has effectually buried the sanctions mantra forever- no one will believe it again, especially not when we, the youth, who constitute between 60 and 70 percent of the population are out of work, and are consequently succumbing to social ills like substance addiction and promiscuity.

In case you did not know, Harare has become a hub of multi-racial brothels, Class A drug trafficking, strip clubs and crime – the social effects of unemployment in the country. Those of us who cared to, voted in favour of economic growth and employment, and that is what we expect.

Exposing the kleptomaniac tendencies of the state is a good start that should be reinforced by transparency and accountability mechanisms within government entities in order to strengthen these institutions and as a result, to attract much needed funding.

Tau Tawengwa

Secretary General


Religious Occultism and Poverty in Africa

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The Zimbabwean media was recently awash with reports of an assumed Pentecostal ‘prophet’ (who apparently does not have a bank account) and who ‘delivered’ a known stripper from her ‘evil’ trade. It is alleged that the ‘prophet’ is opening a shop for her in Harare Central Business District.

This, as well as the recently ended Gumbura saga, arguably demonstrates that we Zimbabweans have become so religious that we will believe anything that comes to us in the name of deity.

While some may argue that religious fervor is good for our society, of concern to me is the possible permeation of religious occultism into our people, and the possible dangers thereof.

Firstly, what is a cult and how can you determine that your community church is not a cult?

A cult may be any form of group (not necessarily religious) that is dangerous for its followers. From a sociological perspective, a religious cult has six characteristics:

●Authoritarian Leadership: Authoritarianism involves the acceptance of an authority figure who exercises excessive control on cult members. As prophet or founder, this leader’s word is ultimate and final.

●Exclusivism:  Cults often believe that they alone have the truth. The cult views itself as the single means of salvation on earth.

●Isolationism: Some cults require members to renounce and break off associations with parents and siblings.

●Opposition to Independent Thinking: Some cultic groups discourage members from thinking independently. The cult leadership, as it were, has already done the thinking, for them; the proper response is merely to submit.

● Fear of Being Excommunicated:  It is not uncommon in cults that people are urged to remain faithful in order to avoid being excommunicated or disbarred, from the group.

● Threats of Satanic Attack: Finally, cults use fear and intimidation to keep members in line. Members may be told that something awful will happen to them should they choose to leave the group.

In terms of the dangers posed by religious occultism, some may recall the 1970s grisly mass suicide in Guyana by Jim Jones’ followers.

On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones and more than 900 members (including 257 children) of his ‘church’ committed mass suicide in the jungle of Guyana in South America.

The Jonestown cult (officially named the “People’s Temple”) was founded in 1955 by an Indianapolis USA preacher named James Warren Jones. Jones based his liberal ministry on a combination of religious and socialist philosophies.

Nevertheless, why did people join Jones’ church in the first place? I mean, what was the attraction of his ministry, and what was the demographic orientation of his followers?

Research reveals that Jim Jones’ primary recruitment targets were poor, and mostly people of colour (blacks and Hispanics). His ‘ministry’ promised the creation of an egalitarian community of economic justice and spiritual fulfillment- the kind of language that would appeal to the downtrodden.

Here in Africa, Escapism is a term used by researchers of religion to define “a type of Christianity that because of the current situation on the continent, [has] a very strong appeal.

“Within the safe walls of one’s religion, one can escape the harsh realities of the “outside” world. It manifests itself in different subtypes (often imported from overseas), like an apocalyptic Christianity or a Gospel of prosperity.”

Now I am not trying to argue that all prosperity, prophetic or apocalyptic types of ministry equate to religious occultism.


However, I am trying to make the point that like Jim Jones’ followers, many people in Zimbabwe may unwittingly face the danger of succumbing to predatory piety owing to poverty and the promise of deliverance thereof.

As a predominately youthful nation, it is therefore important that parents and communities remain alert to the permeation of religious occultism. As it stands, the harsh economic environment facing the country makes the Escapism type of Christianity popular.

Yet, while the freedom of religion should remain respected, we should however not allow Escapism to translate into execution, as was the case in the Jonestown massacre.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director