September 27, 2007

Corruption is a Scourge

Filed under: media release — newritings @ 10:17 am

Transparency South Africa welcomes the release of the latest Corruption Perception Index, and directs members of the public and the media to the counterpart of this report: the Bribe Payers Index (see These two reports indicate a fuller picture of the corruption discourse and we will love them to be read together.

We also want to affirm the call made that the globally powerful countries have much to do to ensure that the capacities of the developing nations can deliver basic services (health, education, etc.) and democratic rights to their citizens. We are of the view that the international financial institutions and the powerful countries have much to answer for imposing systems of governance which in effect undermine and/or undermined many countries too from being well-governed.

As South Africans, from the developing world, we can assert that the excessive imposition of free trade as well as the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation, deregulation of the economy, selling off of state-owned assets, etc. did not enhance good governance. We can also affirm that the so-called third world debt has been used as a political tool against poor and developing nations. History shows that it enhanced poverty and inequality and mal-governance. We are pleased that this current Corruption Perception Index deals comprehensively on those who promote and condone corruption.

We are also pleased to hear the call from our movement that the fight against corruption goes hand in hand with our commitment to building credible and durable national institutions. We are also excited that the call is made for wealthy countries to “regulate their financial centres more strictly. Focusing on the roles of trusts, demanding knowledge of beneficial ownership and strengthening anti-money laundering provisions” as “just a few of the ways that rich governments can tackle the facilitators of corruption.” (For more, read TI’s release.)

We end with the words of Julius Nyerere (Good Governance for Africa by Julius Nyerere, 13 October 1998) when he underlined the importance of this good fight thus:

Poverty is an enemy of good governance, for persistent poverty is a destabiliser, especially if such poverty is shared in a grossly unequal manner, or is widely regarded as being unfairly distributed as the few who are relatively rich indulge in conspicuous consumption. Known or suspected corruption among the political leaders often makes the problem worse – and corruption throughout the society more difficult to overcome. Good wages or salaries will not stop bad people from being corrupt; but miserable wages and salaries are not conducive to rectitude. Political instability, real or imagined, can be a source, and is often used as an excuse, for bad governance.


But to say this is very different from saying that because Africa is poor, Africans do not deserve good governance. This continent is not distinguished for its good governance of the peoples of Africa. But without good governance, we cannot eradicate poverty; for no corrupt government is interested in the eradication of poverty; on the contrary, and as we have seen in many parts of Africa and elsewhere, widespread corruption in high places breed poverty.

Nor in saying this am I asking readers to accept the widespread belief that Africa has more corrupt, tyrannical, and power-hungry elites, than have other continents either now or historically. While avoiding the living and naming only a few of the dead, it is surely easy to see, in the past 75 years alone, our Mobutus, Iddi Amins, Bokassas, and military juntas, of Europe and elsewhere.

In all European countries where the term of office is not limited by the constitution, my fellow politicians there pride themselves on how long or how short they remain in power. The trouble is that our Amins and Bokassas and Mobutus are Africans; but the Francos, Hitlers and Mussolinis are Spanish, Germans or Italians; and Africa played no role in putting them in power.

Rather than conduct a post-mortem, we should try to help Africa and African countries to move forward from where we are now by addressing the central issue of building and strengthening the institutional framework of our continent and its countries. In doing so, to face the realities of Africa – all of them.

Those internal, where our theoretically sovereign nations find their freedom to act is obstructed by the depth of our poverty and technological backwardness. And those realities external to us and beyond our control, in relation to which we are like a collection of pygmies in a world where giants stalk, and from where modern and constantly changing technology floods outwards over the world like an irresistible tide.


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