Allegiance to Corruption

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Picture: The President of South Africa Jacob Zuma is currently facing allegations of having a corrupt relationship the notorious Gupta family.

In its publication titled Rethinking NonRacialism: Reflections of a Selection of South African Leaders, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation provides various means by which corruption can be tackled in South Africa. The foundation suggests anti-corruption reforms that enhance institutional capacity, transparency and accountability. However, how do any means set up to fight corruption succeed when the leadership of the country is the biggest gang in the country? For any measures to succeed, the first step to be taken is by understanding why and how the political leadership thinks and behaves and what motivates one to commit to corruption so much that they totally lose allegiance to their nation. The detrimental results of corruption should also be carefully understood before any strategies can succeed because incorrect diagnosis of this issue could be irreversible unless if it is through anarchy. One possible result of corruption, particularly state capture in the South African context is state failure and state collapse of which Rotberg (2004) gives a clear description:

the loss of legitimacy – the gradual attenuation of the authority of the state due to refusal of dissatisfied citizens to obey the state on the grounds of their perception that the state is incapable or repressive or both; and loss of efficiency – the increasing malfunctioning of the institutions of the state (which may be due to lack of resources or debt burden) which makes the government irrelevant to the citizens.”

Some political commentators may argue that democracy is made by institutions such as the judiciary and Parliament, that as long as these institutions are rock solid, it is irrelevant who holds political leadership in a democracy because “all democracies are started by visionaries and implemented by mediocrities” however, political leadership is essential in every situation democratic or not. When the leadership of the country fails to fulfill the functions of a state which include decision-making, the occurrence of the concept of state failure and state collapse is not inconceivable

Brodén (2005) discusses four theoretical explanations in her master’s thesis on the precedence set by African leadership in terms of corruption. The first explanation is the paradoxical role of democracy. This theoretical perspective suggests that while democracy can create accountability and imparity it can also faster corruption through political competition.  The second theoretical perspective views corruption as part of a political strategy, it suggests that in order to undermine ones political opponents one should take a strategic move to “…gather an amazing fortune for oneself and withholding resources from political opponents.” This view shows the systematic nature of corruption and that it occurs deliberately. Brodén argues that the threat of “post-office danger” makes African leaders terrified of the punishment they may face after they leave office hence they strategically implement acts of corruption that protect them in some way and continue even after they have left spaces of influence. She suggests that in order to safeguard the interests of the political elite and in many cases the economic elite “Political loyalty has to be purchased and political opponents impoverished.” And that it is necessary to ensure “loyalty from national army, police force, parliament and other governmental agencies having coercive power ensure political continuity.”

Goldsmit (2001) obliviously suggests that because African politics are “dangerous” this encourages leaders to pursue short foresight and economically destructive policies. However the third theoretical perspective in this case argues that “to retain the political position of power is the greatest incentive for corrupt behavior, rather than personal wealth.”  In this viewpoint “the leaders’ incentives to stay in power act as protection from dangers, hazards waiting after office.”  The last theoretical perspective mentioned in Brodén’s thesis is a Post-political explanation to corruption among national leaders. It suggests that the lack of influence after a leader leaves offices contributes them being prone to corrupt activities. The latest example is what occurred when Yahya Jammeh allegedly left with resources when he was defeated out of power.

The characteristics of the above explanations are evident in the current political leadership in South Africa. Before anarchy is adopted as means to prevent state failure and state collapse, it is imperative that the current political leadership wake up and realise the danger it is cooking amongst the people of this country. The 2014 revolution in Ghana is not that far behind us that we must forget how irresponsible political leadership can cost a nation.