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CORRUPTION

VIEWS: 32 PAGES: 2

									       w       ITH THE Nationalist Government facing charges of abuse of power and financial
               corruption more serious than at any time in its history, has come the bland admission
        by Cabinet Minister Jacob de Villiers that "apartheid was the problem".
          But, he insists, the irregularities, amounting to seemingly incalculable millions in the often
        renamed department he now controls, "are in the past. The Government is committed to
        exposing the truth about them."
          In support of this claim he lists President F.W. de Klerk's announcement of a judicial
        inquiry into allegations that members of the security forces were behind the murder of
        Eastern Cape community leader Matthew Goniwe and two others, the publication of the
        Pickard Commission's report of the graft in the Department of Development Aid, and De
        Klerk's instruction that the Goldstone Commission should investigate allegations of a secret
        police base from which 'dirty tricks' were planned.
          Yet there is a perception in the broader world community and among white South
        Africans in particular that corruption is especially prevalent in black Africa.
          H§re COLIN LEGUM looks at why Africa is portrayed as exceptionally corrupt and the
        reason for the corruption that in fact exists in many African countries.




                     CORRUPTION
W       HEN WILLIAM F. WELD, the
        US Attorney for Massachusetts,
retired after serving in the Justice Depart-
                                               States, which involves rewarding politi-
                                               cians and their cronies, remains chronic.
                                               It has forced a former Vice President and
                                                                                            present there are at least a dozen cases
                                                                                             involving financiers who are on trial for
                                                                                            financial malpractices involving
ment's criminal division, he wrote: 'I         several Governors out of office; current-    hundreds of millions of rand. At least
would like to underscore a concern that        ly threatens scores of Congressmen;           one former Minister was forced to resign
increasingly troubled me throughout my         involves leading figures in the biggest      because of corrupt practices; and the
years of involvement in law enforcement.       financial ramp this century (including       country is unable to deal effectively with
My concern is that, while Americans            President Bush's son) over what we           businessmen who have illegally exported
frequently deride other countries for          know as building societies; and it has in    capital out of the country, estimated at
corruption in their public institutions,       recent years rocked some of the most         some R17 billion. Some of this colossal
they greatly underrate public corruption       illustrious financial companies in Wall      sum has been transferred — under
as a political and economic problem at         Street.                                      arrangements which make possible the
home.'                                            In Germany, there is the recent case of   evasion of laws governing exchange
   What William Weld wrote about               a finance minister being forced to resign    control regulations. For a country des-
Americans applies no less to South             over a scandal involving the creaming        perately short of investment capital the
Africans, the British, the Germans,            off of funds for political purposes, while   loss of such large sums of surplus wealth,
Japanese and others. Their own record          a number of industrialists have been         this transfer offunds abroad is a national
of corruption is generally treated as          tried over illegal trafficking in weapons    scandal.
exceptional aberrations in their system,       and chemical supplies.                          Yet, nobody talks about South Africa,
and not inherent in the system itself. Yet                                                  Japan, the United States, Britain or
                                                  Even in puritanical Switzerland, in-
— and this is the first point I want to                                                     other countries as corrupt societies in
                                               dustrialists have been involved in illegal
make — corruption is endemic in every                                                       contrast with the habitual reference to
                                               arms deals. This, too, has been dis-
country in the world and under every                                                        corruption in Africa.
                                               covered in Sweden over the controversial
kind of political system.                                                                      Why are African leaders and govern-
                                               deal by the weapons-makers, Bofor, in a
                                                                                            ments stereotyped as corrupt? This
  As has now been shown, communism             multi-million pound deal with India.
                                                                                            portrayal of Africa is by now so
produced corrupt societies in the USSR            Britain has not yet recovered from the    imprinted on the minds of South
and throughout Eastern Europe despite          exposure of the role of top businessmen      Africans that if any newspaper reader is
the high moral tone set by Marxists.           and city financiers over the Guinness        asked to apply a description of Africa
Japan — one of the closest regulated           affair, while even the prestigious Lloyds    they can usually be relied upon to say
countries in the world — has been              is trying to regain its former prestige      'corrupt', 'dictatorial', and 'nepotistic'
rocked b y a succession of corruption          — 'Al at Lloyds' — after a series of            I am reminded of a recent report by an
scandals that have toppled prime               scandals.                                    experienced correspondent on African
ministers, finance ministers and other            Name any country in the Arab world        affairs writing for a Johannesburg paper
top officials and financiers.                  and in Asia (except for Singapore), or in    who described the new Attorney-General
   A trial has just concluded in Italy         Latin America, and one can list scores of    of Zambia as one of the few lawyers of
involving a dozen prominent bankers            scandals involving corruption. Nearer        integrity to serve in such a capacity in
and industrialists, while its recent elec-     home, current cases involving corrup-        Africa. How many attorney generals in
tions have been shot through with              tion during the apartheid years, show        the continent does this correspondent
fraudulent practices.                          that South Africa is among the most          know to justify this kind of judgment? I
   The 'pork barrel' politics in the United    corrupt countries in the continent. At       have direct knowledge of at least 30

PAGE TWELVE
                                              African attitudes there is an additional        to it have characterised most societies
HISTORICAL                                    reason which helps to explain what lies         The emerging new political class ofter
NEED TO                                       behind the widespread denigration of
                                              Africa: it stems from their historical
                                                                                              consists of people drawn from an under-
                                                                                              privileged society and who, for all theii
JUSTIFY                                       need to justify white supremacy.                lives, have known dire poverty. Self-
                                                                                              enrichment has been a universal feature
                                                 This need gained greater significance
WHITE                                         during the apartheid years when Africa          of the exercise of unchecked power,
                                              was regarded as the implacable enemy of         Already, in South Africa, this process
SUPREMACY                                     white-ruled South Africa. It is an irony        can be seen to be developing, most
                                              that a country that has been subjected to       notably in the system of Homelands.
attorney generals and other senior law        single-party, undemocratic and corrupt            A third reason is that in the fragile,
officers in African countries since in-       rule (just look at the government's role        nascent period of independence those
dependence who have proved them-              in buttressing the corrupt rulers of many       who have managed to gain power have
selves to be men of scrupulous integrity,     of the Homelands) should have accused           never been sure of how long they will
some of whom have had to pay the price        the whole of Africa with precisely these        hold office; hence the need to make hay
for their efforts at curbing illegality,      vices.                                          while their usually brief tenure of power
   This is not to suggest that there have                                                     lasts. Some African leaders have salted
been no dishonest law officers, nor that        Now that the political climate in
                                              South Africa has happily changed, white         away their ill-gotten gains against a
corruption does not exist in Africa. It                                                       rainy day.
certainly does. But since corruption is a     South Africans are still imbued with the
universal phenomenon what lies behind         racist attitudes of the past. It is likely to      Now, over most of the African conti-
the persistent denigration of African         take years for this mindset to change.          nent, has come a day of reckoning for
governments and leaders as if all, or         What could'help is the cultivation of           the first generation of the post-
most of them, are corrupt?                    more responsible reporting in the mass          independence political class. The coming
   If I were to list the names of African     media of the true conditions in the             of this Second Independence has been
leaders or governments that I know are        continent now that it is opening up to          hastened by popular discontent over the
honest and clean, this would be taken,        coverage by South African journalists.          abuse of power, the extent of corruption,
quite correctly, as citing exceptional        One can only hope that the era of               and the absence of human rights. Demo-
cases to disprove an accurate generalisa-     generalisations is drawing to a close and       cracy is on the march from north to
tion. But I cannot help mentioning just       that Africa will be treated with greater        south and from east to west. But unless
three examples of African leaders who         responsibility in differentiating between       the advent of democracy produces effec-
have recently been described in the           what is good and what is bad in its             tive institutions capable of curbing the
South African media as having secretly        governments and societies.                      excesses of unrepresentative power,
enriched themselves — President Mugaba
of Zimbabwe, ex-president Milton                    Accountable government, based on sound
Obote of Uganda, and ex-president
Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. The facts
                                                    democratic principles, is the only sure way of
are that Obote is living in virtual penury          ensuring that the period of the Second
in Lusaka; Kaunda has been left with no             Independence won't be blighted by the
resources to sustain himself and his
family; while Mugabe himself is com-
                                                    misdemeanours and mistakes of the First
pletely clean despite the nefarious
practices of some of his colleagues.
    The purpose of this article is to raise       Turning now to the second issue —           there is the risk of the emergence of a
two important issues: what lies behind        the reasons for corruption which un-            new political class as greedy as the one
the portrayal of Africa as exceptionally      doubtedly exists in the continent. There        they have replaced.
corrupt; and what are the reasons for the     are several different reasons to account           Nevertheless, in the longer term,
corruption that in fact exists in many        for it.                                         accountable government, based on sound
African countries?                                First, there has been the absence of        democratic principles, is the only sure
    My answer to the first question is that   democratic government with counter-             way of ensuring that the period of the
the almost universal characterisation of      balancing institutions capable of               Second Independence won't be blighted
Africa as riven by corruption is moti-        curbing corruption. (This needs to be           by the misdemeanours and mistakes of
vated by racism. It stems from the            qualified by referring back to the uni-         the First Independence which was
 earlier, and still widely persistent, idea   versality of corruption even in countries       fought against alien rule.
 that blacks are somehow inferior and are     where democratic governments have                  This is a time of hope; but the process
 incapable of governing themselves effi-      existed for years.                              of democratic change will not come
ciently and cleanly. Nor is this racism           A second reason is the psychological        easily or quickly. It is important that the
confined only to the white world; it is to    drive of people emerging from poverty           complexities of change be properly
be found equally among Arabs, Asians          to acquire wealth. This has been true of        understood, and this calls for respon-
 and Japanese. Space prevents me from         all societies in the early stages of the        sible reporting which will require, above
 citing evidence of this non-white racism     development of democratic government;           all, recognition of the racism that is
 towards blacks; but if challenged to do       it is not confined only to Africans.           present, to a greater or a lesser extent, in
 so I can produce ample evidence to               The easy way to achieving wealth has        every one of us, no matter how pious we
 support this statement.                      been through the gaining of political            might feel about our success in having
    In the special case of white South         power. Gaining power and hanging on             overcome our own inbred attitudes. ®

                                                                                                                  PAGE THIRTEEN

								
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