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Cablegate: Rampant Zimbabwean Civil Service Corruption

VZCZCXRO2651
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0996 3091341
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041341Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3656
INFO RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0148
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HARARE 000996

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP AND AF/S B. WALCH
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO KCC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT CVIS KFRD ZI
SUBJECT: RAMPANT ZIMBABWEAN CIVIL SERVICE CORRUPTION

REF: HARARE 000928

1. (SBU) As yet another sign of a failed nation, corruption has
become endemic within the Zimbabwean civil service, resulting in a
near total collapse of government controls over passports and
official documents. Civil servants, whose salaries have been eroded
to practically nothing by hyper-inflation, have become not only
susceptible, but dependent on bribes and kickbacks for basic
subsistence. As a result, government controls over passport
applications and civil documents have disappeared and fraudulent
document vendors have become widespread. Post no longer has any
confidence in Zimbabwean passports or government certificates issued
within the past two years.

2. (SBU) PrintFlow is the GOZ owned company charged with all
official printing, except passports and money. During a visit to
the company, Conoff observed a moribund facility with ample
opportunity for malfeasance. Once employing over 2000 workers with
12 operating presses, the facility now has less than 125 employees
and 3 operational presses. According to PrintFlow's Production
Manager, Joseph Makande, the employees were not "let-go," but
rather, just "disappeared." Salaries, still paid in local currency,
have not kept-up with the country's hyper-inflation and average less
than 2 USD per month. As a result, the remaining workers are highly
susceptible to corruption which supports a flourishing black market
document industry. In just one of many recent cases, two PrintFlow
employees were arrested with 8 burial order forms, 40 national
registration forms, 634 blank government receipts, 27 birth
confirmations, 185 blank birth certificates, 113 emergency travel
documents, and 21 blank passports. A trusted contact close to the
case tells us that this was not their first arrest, and that the two
are part of a well-known document ring able to pay its way out of
judicial trouble.

3. (SBU) Contacts associated with the Ministry of Home Affairs
Registrar General (passports) tell us the situation with passport
issuance is similarly corrupt. Zimbabwean passport offices are
plagued by absenteeism from workers whose salaries don't even cover
bus fare to come to work. With no incentive to work within the
system, many choose to do nothing without a kickback. Given a
continuing desire on the part of impoverished Zimbabweans to flee
the country for economic opportunity (reftel), the demand for
passports has overwhelmed capacity. Normal passport processing time
exceeds two years. In typical Zimbabwean fashion, people have
developed a plan to cope, namely a thriving under-the-table process.
A reliable source explained how 250 USD could buy one a passport
application and a contact at the passport office. This contact
would then walk the application through adjudication and printing,
with everyone getting a "piece of the action." The result is an
official passport printed with whatever biographical data is
required by the applicant.

4. (SBU) Comment: Our contacts within the government are reluctant
to disclose anything negative for fear of retaliation. Nonetheless,
symptoms of a failed state--lack of food, a collapsed health care
system, closed schools, and ubiquitous bank queues--are evident
throughout Zimbabwe. Less visible, but also representative of a
failed state, is now endemic corruption. Passport and document
fraud are a small but important part of this. End Comment.

MCGEE

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