Prof Paul John Isaak
Lessons from world history remind us that successes in human rights and policies geared towards promotion of the welfare of the people have always emerged victorious against the evils of colonialism, racism, and apartheid. In our context today, the ideals of prosperity and economic progress should not be at the expense of human dignity and development. Better expressed, shared prosperity be employed to eliminate corruption since corruption delays, distorts and diverts economic growth.
This belief that every human being must be treated humanely and in the spirit of Ubuntu is the foundation of all the principles of our religious, political, economic and social teaching. If not, corruption is propagated by our prevailing economic structures that do not actively seek a just economic order. Instead, it is driven by greed, relentless pursuit of power, profit and material gain for religious leaders, corporations, political bodies, administrators and individual actors.
Corruption means today the misuse of public office [public power, public interest, public authority, political power] for private gain [private benefit, private profit, personal gain, family, group or comrade benefit] and in the process, we create a powerful class of elite at the expense of the citizenry that is reduced and called street children, unemployed, and informal settlement dwellers without ownership of a piece of land.
The ingredients of prevailing corruption may be characterised in three faces: the incidental corruption that covers individual acts of malfeasance such as petty or grand corruption, institutional corruption when ministries, offices, and agencies of a government is riddled with corruption and become a feature of interaction with the public, and the next step is systemic corruption that infects the society as a way of life and sometimes even overlooked by a legal authority. These faces of corruption are intrinsically related to their effects in multiple ways. Like a virus, corruption can spread to all layers of a government-serving bureaucracy, causing untold losses of revenue and stifling public confidence in that government’s ability to serve the public interest.
Corruption happens when people are “eating” their daily bread without sweat on their faces according to Genesis 3: 19. The “eating” is reserved for those who are not sweating and not labouring and cultivating the fish, diamonds, gold, oil, and corn. The mining, ploughing, sowing, reaping, threshing, winnowing, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking happens through the sweating of the workers while “eating” is done by the corrupt elites. That’s the face of corruption.
Powerfully expressed, the poor are ashamed to be photographed or taking selfies of themselves with an iPhone because of their severely undernourished skeletal-looking bodies and protruding stomachs while the rich display their luxury vehicles and houses to impress themselves or seeking admiration from others.
Like most of the countries in the world, Namibia is aware of and deals with corruption. Based on such awareness Namibia passed and operationalised the Anti-Corruption Act (No 8 of 2003). This act established the Anti-Corruption Commission and outlined its functions and matters related to fighting and dealing with corruption in Namibia. Likewise, the Namibian Constitution, in article 89 establishes the Ombudsman and states, in article 91 (f), that the Ombudsman shall have “the duty to investigate vigorously all instances of alleged or suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public monies by officials and to take appropriate steps, including reports to the prosecutor general and the auditor general pursuant thereto.”
So, today we are empowered and enabled to fight corruption together with the two mentioned governmental agencies. It is a legal and constitutional fight. The sacred and the secular bodies such as the faith-based organisations and civil organisations should be part of this legal and constitutional struggle. These organisations are known throughout the world history for their prophetic voices; as sites of the struggle; as a community and enabling voices so that the poor shall have access to daily services such as water, electricity, food, education, and medicine.
Mother Teresa said it aptly that such organisations are the eyes, hands and feet of the people and societies and governments. They are the eyes that look with compassion, the hands that feed, and the feet that walk the talk for common good and thereby making corruption history.
Or as vividly described by Franz Fanon in his book, The Wretched of The Earth, “in the colonies the truth stood naked, but the citizens of the mother-country preferred it with clothes on: the native had to love them, something in the way mothers are loved.” So, why love corruption in the cloth of capitalism at the expense of Ubuntu?
In conclusion, the statement of making corruption history is not a far-fetched futuristic idealism. According to Victor Hugo, the future has many names: “For the weak, it is unattainable. For the fearful, it is the unknown. For the bold, it is the opportunity.” Or as expressed by Barack Obama, “and where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.”
In short, we can and shall strive to be ranked among the top six least corrupt nations in the world: Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Singapore and Switzerland. We have emerged victorious in our struggle against colonialism, racism and apartheid and why not against corruption? Let’s make corruption history.