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Opinion - Political corruption and bribery a dangerous game

2021-09-13  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Political corruption and bribery a dangerous game

Forms of corruption vary, but can include bribery, lobbying, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, influence and embezzlement. Corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as money laundering, though it is not restricted to these activities. The misuse of government power for other purposes such as the repression of political opponents and general exclusion without merit is also considered political corruption.

Over time, corruption has been defined differently. For example, in a simple context, while performing work for a government or as a representative, it is unethical to accept a gift. Any free gift could be construed as a scheme to lure the recipient towards some biases. In most cases, the gift is seen as an intention to seek certain favours such as work promotion, and tipping in order to win a contract, job or exemption from certain tasks in the case of a junior worker handing the gift to a senior employee who can be key in winning the favour. My interest in writing is centred on institutional corruption (political corruption), as distinguished from bribery and other kinds of obvious personal gain. A similar problem of corruption arises in any institution that depends on financial support from people who have interests that may conflict with the primary purpose of the institution.

Political corruption undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections and in the legislature reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the inefficient provision of services. For the republic, it violates a basic principle of republicanism regarding the centrality of civic virtue. More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of government if procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned off, and public offices are bought and sold. Corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.

Namibia witnessed the regional and local authority elections last year. Good news to those who were declared winners, and tough luck to those who did not make it. Eight to nine months in their nicely air-conditioned constituency offices and town council offices. The expectations of the voters are either achieved or still hanging, as earnestly most of the victors are finding the going tough, if not stuck. Analysing much of their campaigning messages will break the camel’s back, and imagine how dangerous politics can become sometimes. Politics without principles is tantamount to political suicide. A number of constituency councillors have sold their political convictions, just to benefit from crumbs that are likely to be swept under the carpet. Some councillors have reduced the mantle of their offices to that of a playing ground with no regard for the voters’ imagination and aspirations. All what they seek is to line up their agenda of fattening their pockets through whatever mechanism they seem to work for in their compromised games. An analysis can be drawn from how they advance themselves when voting for the management chairperson and elected members of the other government institutions. 

Voting based on patronage without merit is another form of political corruption. Patronage refers to favouring supporters, for example with government employment; a yardstick most of the voters rely on to shield a candidate in exchange. This may be legitimate, as when a newly elected government changes the top officials in the administration in order to effectively implement its policies. It can be seen as corruption if this means that incompetent persons, as a payment for supporting the regime, are selected before more able ones. Eyes are open and have been open since day one when the office keys were mandatorily given to councillors. Do not fall prey of injustices as Namibians suffered too long; you better be the change we seek to see.

In non-democracies, many government officials are often selected for loyalty rather than ability. They may be almost exclusively selected from the particular group (for example, Sunni Arabs in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Nomenklatura in the Soviet Union, or the Junkers in Imperial Germany) that supports the regime in return for such favours.  A similar problem can also be seen in Eastern Europe, for example in Romania, where the government is often accused of patronage when new governments come into power and rapidly change most of the officials in the public sector.

Nepotism and cronyism, favouring relatives or personal friends, may be combined with bribery, for example demanding that a business should employ a relative of an official controlling regulations affecting that business. The elected members should do away with “old boys network” in which appointees to official positions are selected only from a closed and exclusive social network instead of appointing the most competent candidate. Seeking to harm enemies becomes corruption when official powers are illegitimately used as a means to this end. For example, trumped-up charges are often brought up against journalists or writers who bring up politically sensitive issues, such as politicians’ acceptance of bribes. 

Namibians, especially the youth, should guard the democratic principles at all times.

2021-09-13  Staff Reporter

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