By Takudzwanashe Mundenga
Often-times the blame for the underdevelopment of Africa is cast upon the former coloniser while paying no attention to all the internally created structural rigidities of the continent. Yes Europe and North America have not been sweet angels in our positioning in the economic geo-politics, but why is it still that despite the resourcefulness of the continent, governments are still treating corruption with kid’s gloves.
The word “politician” has degenerated into an effigy in Africa. In most cases it is used to describe a particular individual with a reputation for plundering common resources yet nothing happens to them because they are above the law. However in reality, the person is not a politician but a self-serving politico. In this article, I am not going to focus on expounding and corroborating the existence of corruption, but I will suggest the ways and wings which governments should embrace to combat massive graft.
Political corruption which encompasses bribery, smuggling, fraud, illegal payments, money laundering, window dressing, false declaration, evasion, underpayment, deceit, concealment, aiding and abetting of any kind to the detriment of the general populace within the corridors of political power. It includes both monetary and non-monetary benefits.
Corruption by politicians and the politically-connected undermines people’s trust in the political system, its institutions and leadership. Usually when it happens, that’s exactly the moment when you see the majority of the electorate deviate their support from the incumbent regime and we begin to talk about the ghastly winds of political change.
Corruption is consequently an antithesis to democracy and constitutionalism. It side-tracks resources that are needed to improve the lives of citizens to enrich a few, at great cost to many. It inhibits the state from achieving its statutory obligations, corrodes the legitimacy of a democratic government and undermines the rule of law thereby bedevilling the moral fabric of the society, and choking economic growth. It has a powerful deleterious effect on foreign direct investment (FDI) by destroying investor optimism and confidence.
Internal problems are resolved internally. That’s not America’s problem, neither is it Australia’s, but our respective governments in Africa have to take action to guard its reputation and political profile. The phenomenon of corruption is costing the Sub-region a great deal and hampering its economic development. The implications and penalties are also on the increasing side.
In a bid to improve its dignity and ensure an environment conducive to rapid economic and political change, the region must be willing to look inward at confronting the glitches that are besetting the continent for a long time. Corruption involves decisions; it does not just take place. Plunder and corruption entail that people or a person both decide to participate in corrupt practices and have the opportunity to do so.
Approaches to address corruption for that reason have to address the component of choice as well as that of opportunity. They have to make corruption a high- risk and low- gain, as opposed to a low-risk and high-gain endeavour. Such strategies have to be country-specific and what applies to one country may not necessarily apply to another which suggests that procedures to address corruption have to be set up in and by individual countries themselves.
Practically in all African countries where corruption is rampant and embedded there is need to re-establish governmental legitimacy and re-build institutions as well as hitting hard at corrupt practices. Fighting corruption is not forthright or simple, but it is not impossible.
The variegated surface complexion of the region, which shows one country with widespread corruption while the next is least corrupt, attests how it can be combated at national level before trying to address it as a regional issue. Our eyes were not spared to witness the Cashgate Scandal in Malawi, Salarygate Scandal in Zimbabwe and Nkandlagate Scandal in South Africa yet Botswana remained totally unaffected by the dramatic wave.
The use of contemporary Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in government can also foster the anti-corruption struggle against ‘self-serving asset stripping’ by public officials and ICTs may play a central role in averting some styles of grand political corruption. E-Governance denotes an essential prospect to move forward with qualitative, cost-effective government services since automation is robust and promotes liaison between citizens and government.
Since developing countries which the whole Sub-Saharan Africa falls under, are characterised as countries with low internet connectivity, there is generally absence of political will to embrace the initiative. But the world has gone electronic so why wait for people to read information about how rotten the government is than just the snake’s head?
The potential benefits of using ICT in government go beyond efficiency and effectiveness to touch on accountability and transparency. For example the introduction of the PROMUN financial administration and management software for local authorities and water utilities in Zimbabwe and Zambia has sealed some of the financial leakages that that were previously rampant. This reduces some corrupt behaviour by externally enhancing relationships with citizens internally by effectively controlling and monitoring employee’s behaviours.
By making available interactive access to and use of information by people who use government services, e-governance initiatives hope to empower citizens and improve relationships between governments and citizens by helping build new spaces for citizens to participate in their overall development.
An effective approach to deal with corruption in Africa is for each state to make, and effectively enforce constitutional provisions for accountability of public officials, and guarantee participatory democracy, which encourages popular participation of civil society to ensure accountability and transparency of governance.
Additionally, the restoration of a de-politicised, professional and accountable judiciary and the law enforcement sector accommodate checks and balances within the government thereby preventing the abuse of power by politicians and those on influential positions. An unambiguous separation of powers within the government should impartially subjugate the arbitrary ambitions of any of the three arms of government.
For instance, the executive and legislature should pursue their mandate while not tempering with the verdict of the courts or undermining judicial independence in order to promote promotes legitimacy, good governance and respect for human rights. The rule of law and reverence for constitutionalism should be observed no matter someone’s position in government.
The rapport between government and the media should not be branded by rigidity and suppression as it is like in some of African countries. This relationship in countries such as South Africa and Zimbabwe is constantly disintegrating with the promulgation of the Protection of State Information Bill or else known as the ‘Secrecy Bill’ and other supplementary policies which have resulted in the media’s oppression and lack of press freedom in South Africa.
Likewise Zimbabwe’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) continuously disrupts the media from investigating sacrosanct information pertaining to corruption, especially by public officials.
The recommendation to developing countries especially those in Africa are to turn off the blame culture and start focusing on those structurally made bottlenecks that are often contributing to failure of policy packages. It is not that the policies that are formulated in Africa are bad, but their execution if often countered by massive rot.
Takudzwanashe Mundenga is an Independent Academic Researcher based in Zimbabwe. Co-Author of the book: The Post 1980 Chimurengas Explained, co-host for Africa Digest TV, and Television & Communications Assistant for The Zimbabwe China Youth Forum.