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Opinion - Materialism and social status fuelling corruption

2021-08-23  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Materialism and social status fuelling corruption

Faustinus Shikukutu

At the dawn of independence and Namibia being one of the last-borns of Africa, one could have thought that the country had learned from its older siblings not to follow in their mistakes, which destroyed most African economies and social cohesion.

Although the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was introduced in 2003, 13 years after independence, as a preventative measure to corruption, many people by then had already developed a resistance and their egos mutated, leading them to continue infecting others. 

So, resistance and infections had made some people to say, “if others are doing it, why not me?”   People made materialism and social class the primary microscope for social approval. 

These days, driving a flashy car, having a mansion, residing in an affluent suburb or occupying a higher position in society determines one’s status in the public space.

This encouraged or continued to invigorate many to engage in corrupt activities to satisfy their egos. Many graduates who enter the job market with only one or two years of experience and who are at times incompetent, use all the corrupt antics to get elevated to higher positions for the sake of social status. 

The satisfaction of materialism and social class egos leads many people to embezzle funds to seek social recognition, as can be witnessed by reports of money disappearing in government, the private sector or banking institutions, depriving citizens of needed resources or hard-earned cash.

Corruption is widely seen as one of the biggest barriers to economic growth, investment and poverty reduction in most developing nations. The World Bank defines corruption as making use of public property or assets for personal benefit (Campos and Pradhan, 2007). 

Corruption has several faces: bureaucratic corruption, nepotism and patronage as well as state capture (Plummer, 2012). It comprises bribery, nepotism, fraud and extortion (Özler and Büyükarslan, 2011). In addition, Transparency International postulates that corruption is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain” (Kolstad et al, 2008). 

Corruption is a matter of dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially by powerful people, including for instance public servants or men in uniform. 

The varying forms and expressions of corruption may, in fact, form an unending list since new, more sophisticated, subtle or covert forms are pretty sure to arise.

The current state in Namibia is that corruption reflects in virtually all sectors of society. In some cases, some in society celebrate corrupt individuals who enriched themselves through stealing and pilfering public funds. 

This encourages the further looting of public funds in glaring desecration of the public economic interest and development. 

The case in some of these sectors with tangible and intangible support for the corrupt elements is that funds earmarked for economic development projects are summarily looted by the political and contractor kleptomaniacs. 

In spite of our understandable and frequent focus on monetary exchanges involving government officials and favours, corruption needs not involve the exchange of money, and may be either public or private. 

Public officials accepting envelopes stuffed with cash to favour bribe-givers in the exercise of official powers is perhaps the central, paradigm case of political corruption.

Apart from political corruption which might not be rampant in Namibia, the country is infested by recruitment corruption, where candidates are required to pay cash, cattle or pay with their bodies (sex) to get the job. Yet, surely, corruption may still exist where no money changes hands. 

Favouritism towards particular persons, groups or interests might be exchanged for other sorts of “inducements,” for instance reciprocating preferences in hiring, employment advantages or promotions; and favouritism may also involve the exchange of useful “insider” information. 

Job interviews are merely used as a formality to blind the public that recruitment procedures were followed, while in reality the preferred candidate got the job before attending the interview. 

Political scientist Michael Johnston argued that “in some corrupt exchanges, such as patronage and nepotism”, “considerable time may lapse between receiving the quid and repaying the quo, and the exchange may be conditioned by many factors other than immediate gain. 

In the public sector, for instance, many public servants might spend the whole day scrolling through their cell phones or watching movies on You tube while files are piling up, only waiting for someone who will promise payment to attend to the file. 

These people are paid their full salaries at month-end, but only do their paid job at a crawling pace. The irony of these corrupt practices is that the lucky ones might evade the system for a longer period, while the unlucky ones are caught at their first attempt.

One wonders whether after accumulating all the wealth and occupying the highest positions in government or the private sector through corrupt means one feels proud of the achievement, or have a guilty conscience. 

The ethical dilemma is when many people are blinded by these corrupt practices, and role-model it. 

At times, the achievements through corrupt means are used as the yardstick for success, while those who follow ethical procedures to survive, get a job or attain their possessions, are considered failures in life. Better obtain whatever in life ethically rather than having the guilty conscience for the rest of your life that you attained things or positions corruptly.

2021-08-23  Staff Reporter

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