By Phumla Williams
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 from the southern parts of the continent, such as South Africa, to the northern parts, such as Ethiopia.
We understand that in the traffic jams of Lagos they call it riba, in Maputo parents still use minzilu (pay a bribe) to register their kids for school. In South Africa, everyone has heard the phrase “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 in the survey were: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 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 volunteering to participate. This augurs well in our fight as a continent to stop corruption in our respective countries.
The report finds a significant change in the thinking of people who believe that fighting corruption as a united front of ordinary citizens can change and win the fight.
In South Africa, 57% 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%. In Kenya, the fight is strong at 54%, while in Zimbabwe corruption has decreased, and in Lesotho the power of the united front against corruption now stands at all-time high of 65%.
What does this mean for these countries and what have they done about it?
The findings on South Africa, which were collected between July and 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% 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 the government, the determination to stamp out corruption in the public and private sectors has become more urgent. 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 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 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. The Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee, mandated to oversee all the government’s anti-corruption efforts and initiatives, with the Anti-Corruption Task Team, has made progress in ensuring an integrated approach to fighting corruption across all spheres.
Given the scope of corruption in many countries, it is ordinary people who suffer its impact, and the reality of unchecked corruption impacts our daily lives in countless ways.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, chairperson 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 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 prevents us building a better tomorrow.
Great nations of this African continent 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 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. Let us end this cycle now.
When you visit South Africa and encounter acts of corruption, please dial the National Anti-Corruption Hotline on 0800 701 701.
Phumla Williams is acting director-general of the Government Communication and Information System.