Phumla Williams Special Correspondent
The topic of corruption and its prevalence in society always elicits passionate responses. Corruption is a global phenomenon yet it often hits home at individual level and can have a devastating effect on African communities throughout, from the southern parts of the continent such as South Africa to the northern parts of our continent such as Ethiopia.
We understand that in the traffic jams of Lagos, they call it “riba”, in Maputo parents still pay “minzilu” to register their kids for school. In South Africa everyone has heard the phrase of “paying for a cool drink”.
Corruption truly knows no bounds and the Global Corruption Barometer — Africa 2019: 10th edition captures people’s everyday experiences and perceptions of corruption in 35 countries and territories. The countries that participated on the survey are: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Eswatini, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It is commendable to see this number of countries that volunteered to participate in this survey. This augurs well in our fight as a continent to stop corruption in our respective countries.Th EIE report findings report a significant change in the thinking of ordinary people who believe that fighting corruption as a united front of ordinary citizens can change and win the fight against corruption. In South Africa 57 percent of ordinary citizens think they can make a difference in the fight against corruption, in the great lakes of Malawi the thinking is similar standing at 48 percent in Kenya the fight is strong at 54 percent, whilst in Zimbabwe corruption has decreased, and in Lesotho the power of the united front against corruption now stands at all time high of 65 percent.
What does this mean for these countries and what have these countries done about it?
The findings on South Africa which were collected between July to September 2018 show that corruption remains one of the issues of concern to citizens, but also highlights the important role of ordinary people in fighting corruption. Findings from the survey show that 57 percent of respondents are of the view that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
If we are to defeat this scourge we need all sectors of society to play their part. As government the determination to stamp out corruption both in the public and private sector has become more urgent, and we have called for civil society and business to join us in a united front in this fight. The scourge of corruption stands as a clear and present danger throughout the world, and if not decisively dealt with could destroy our many gains of the past 25 years of democracy.
We dare not allow corruption to take hold and must therefore work together to ensure that those who are corrupt have no place to hide. For our part we are resolute that public officials must lead the way in fighting corruption, and must at all time be guided by the Code of Conduct for the Public Service. We are also working towards strengthening the accountability and responsibility of public servants, and are working towards a transparent and responsive public service.
We are aware that we need concrete actions if we are to stamp out corruption. In this period we have made progress on the development and adoption of a comprehensive National Anti-Corruption Strategy. While the Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee, which is mandated to oversee all government’s anti-corruption efforts and initiatives, along with the Anti-Corruption Task Team have made progress in ensuring an integrated approach to fighting corruption across all spheres of government.
Given the scope of corruption in many countries around the world it is ordinary people who often suffer its impact on them, and the reality of unchecked corruption impacts our daily lives in countless ways.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International, reminds us that public sector corruption doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Foreign bribery and money laundering divert critical resources away from public services, and ordinary citizens suffer most.
Nepotism robs our children of a fair chance to compete for a job, while tax evasion robs our nation of better service delivery. Corruption deprives people of quality education and job opportunities, it undermines all efforts to fight poverty, inequality and unemployment, and robs people of safety, health, infrastructure and a better quality of life. Corruption has the potential to cripple all facets of society and it prevents us from building a better tomorrow.
As great nations of this African continent we simply cannot allow corruption to take hold. It is up to each one of us to act with integrity at all times, and to be both responsible and honest citizens. All of us have a duty to obey the law and should encourage others to do the same. When you pay or take a bribe you are breaking the law and perpetuating an endless cycle. This cannot be the legacy that we leave to our children and future generations.
Every African nation that fought for liberation from corrupt, oppressive colonial powers owes it to its citizens to uphold the legacy and the sacrifices of ordinary people who fought for a better Africa.
What is more encouraging in this report is that it is championed largely by African institutions with the regional coordination done by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in South Africa, and the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) provide technical support to the network.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation Index on governance 2018 indicated clearly that: the rule of law and transparency and accountability are key to progress in governance and are strongly related to improving economic opportunities. The recent progress and transparency of most of these participating countries in this index needs to be encouraged. The fight against corruption needs to be citizen centred, all our institutions, governments, business and civil society needs to empower citizens to fight corruption daily.
Let us end this cycle now and join together in building a new future where we all have zero tolerance for against corruption. Play your part and fight corrupt acts in the private and public sector. As citizens of this continent we can start today by following the key recommendations of this initiative by creating mechanisms to collect citizens complaints and strengthening whistle blower protection. We can empower our media and civil society to hold government accountable and allow cross border cooperation to combat corruption.
When you visit South Africa and you encounter acts of corruption, please dial us direct on the National Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800 701 701 or report any issues of corruption to your nearest police station.
Phumla Williams is South Africa’s Cabinet spokesperson and Acting Director of Government Communication and Information Systems.