Observations: Was the PF’s campaign pledge to fight against corruption real or fallacy

By Barbrah Musamba Chama Mumba

In the run up to the 2011 general elections, the main campaign against MMD was that it was a corrupt regime. PF and other political parties campaigned on cleaning up government of corruption and bad governance. Before looking at the fight against corruption in Zambia, it would be appropriate to look at some definitions and types of corruption.

The business dictionary defines corruption as: “Wrongdoing on the part of an authority or powerful party through means that are illegitimate, immoral, or incompatible with ethical standards. Corruption often results from patronage and is associated with bribery.”

The English Oxford dictionary defines corruption as: “Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically in bribery.” It further goes on to explain that corruption is: “the action or effect of making someone or something morally depraved”

There are many types of corruption including; systemic, sporadic (individual), political (grand), grand and petty corruption. Dr Elaine Byrne, a Senior Research Fellow explains the above as follows:

Systemic corruption is when corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system, when it is embedded in a wider situation that helps sustain it. Systemic corruption is not a special category of corrupt practice, but rather a situation in which the major institutions and processes of the state are routinely dominated and used by corrupt individuals and groups, and in which most people have no alternatives to dealing with corrupt officials.

Sporadic (individual) corruption is the opposite of systematic corruption. Sporadic corruption occurs irregularly and therefore it does not threaten the mechanisms of control nor the economy as such. It is not crippling, but it can seriously undermine morale and sap resources in the economy.

Political (Grand) corruption is any transaction between private and public sector actors through which collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding payoffs. Political corruption is often used synonymously with “grand” or high level corruption, distinguished from bureaucratic or petty corruption because it involves political decision-makers.

Political or grand corruption takes place at the high levels of the political system, when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce public laws, are using this authority to sustain their power, status and wealth. Political corruption not only leads to misallocation of resources, but it also perverts the manner in which decisions are made. Political corruption is when the laws and regulations are abused by the rulers, side-stepped, ignored, or even tailored to fit their interests. It is when the legal bases, against which corrupt practices are usually evaluated and judged, are weak and furthermore subject to downright encroachment by the rulers.

Grand corruption High level or “grand” corruption takes place at the policy formulation end of politics. It refers not so much to the amount of money involved as to the level in which it takes place: grand corruption is at the top levels of the public sphere, where policies and rules are formulated in the first place. Usually (but not always) synonymous to political corruption.

Petty corruption is small scale, bureaucratic or everyday corruption that takes place at the implementation end of politics, where public officials meet the public. Petty corruption is bribery in connection with the implementation of existing laws, rules and regulations, and thus different from “grand” or political corruption.

Petty corruption refers to the modest sums of money usually involved, and has also been called “low level” and “street level” to name the kind of corruption that people can experience more or less daily, in their encounter with public administration and services like hospitals, schools, local licensing authorities, police, taxing authorities and so on.

However, corruption, whether grand or petty has counterproductive effects on the economy the more reason why it should not be tolerated at all.

In order to fight corruption, any well-meaning government needs independent institutions whose existence should not be tampered with nor weakened if we were to safe guard integrity.

Most governments including international financial institutions agree to fight corruption yet, the PF government has so far moved into the opposite direction.

We have seen that there is an attempt to weaken parliament by buying off opposition MPs to resign from their respective political parties. Others have been given jobs as deputy ministers.

All this is to weaken parliament so that the ruling party can easily pass bills meaning that checks and balances have now become a myth.

The 2011 general election results were as follows; PF had 60 MPs, MMD 55, UPND 28, Independents 3, ADD and FDD both one each.

This was a perfect start towards the fight against corruption as there was no clear majority.

The PF government engaged corrupt practices by buying off excited and weak parliamentarians who they enticed by offering deputy ministerial positions.

Ironically, none of the opposition MPs has been given a full cabinet position.

A clear indication that the PF government does not want them in the inner circle of governance or for the purpose of national development but only for their own political dominance.

Constitutional institutions like the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and the Anti-Corruption Commission have been compromised and weakened by the president who has appointed persons to head these organisations that he personally knew and as a result cannot effectively fight illegal vices if the person found wanting is an ally to the president.

This includes the Zambia Police, the Inspector General being a relation to the president.

Recently the Minister of Justice, Wynter Kabimba, publicly dehumanised investigating officers when he was summoned for investigations on procurement of oil.

The same was the case when Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba was summoned at the ACC, the findings have never been made public except to state that the two had been ‘cleared’.

The president castigated the ACC for not consulting him when his cabinet ministers were summoned. Such actions are intimidating and compromise the fight against corruption.

Individuals with cases still in the courts have been appointed to very sensitive government offices such as Mutembo Nchinto who is Director of Public Prosecution.

Former opposition MPs who had cases going on in the courts for corrupt practices suddenly their cases are unheard of after being appointed as deputy ministers and subsequent joining the ruling party.

Gabriel Nalubamba is a case in point whose cases have died a natural death after joining PF.

Deputy Minister Masumba who has been found guilty for forging his certificates yet is still serving as minister. Such actions, questions government’s quest towards the fight against corruption. How serious is the PF government’s fight against corruption?

The judiciary is another institution that needs independence from the executive. The appointment of Lombe Chibesakunda, a relative to the president, as acting Chief Justice does also compromise the fight against corruption.

During campaigns for the 2011 general elections, the PF adopted the ‘donchi kubeba’ slogan which meant that when the then ruling party MMD offered gifts or bribed the electorate, they should accept the gifts but vote otherwise. This in itself was deceptive and a form of corruption which the PF embraced without shame.

We have seen the sudden increase in wealth of the president’s son within the last two years, could this be as a result of him being the president’s son and abusing the privilege to gain pecuniary advantage on government contracts?

The awarding of the supply and installation of CCTV for Lusaka at a cost US$210m instead of US$13m is one other. Not only the cost being high but the manner of awarding the contract is also questionable.

The Vice President, Guy Scot, at a campaign rally in Livingstone donated K13m to a market to entice voters to vote for PF.

Senior PF government officials and the president have been on record of black mailing voters to vote for them if they wanted development and further stating that if the electorate did not do so then they will never see development in their area.

These and many other acts by the PF government makes a mockery of their claims of fighting corruption but we can safely say they are also a corrupt government because they embrace corrupt practices.