Corruption – an overused rhetoric for social awareness?

A new poll of citizens’ views on corruption in the UK uncovers some fascinating – and disturbing – insights into how UK citizens view corruption in this country. The Gallup/ICM Research poll conducted for Transparency International UK reveals that a majority (53%) think that corruption has increased in the last three years – with very few (3%) believing the problem is on the decline.

Although only a small minority claims to have been directly affected by corruption (14%), as many as a third say they have had their suspicions about a specific event. And, while an overwhelming majority (93%) would be willing to report corruption, only one in three say they know where to go. This suggests that corruption in the UK could be going unreported.

The poll, published on 9/12/2010 to mark International Anti-corruption Day, also reveals how little trust the public has in the UK government to tackle corruption.

More than one in three (34%) say they trust nobody to fight corruption and almost one in five (19%) don’t know who to trust to tackle it. The media is more trusted than government – with one in six trusting the media (16%) and only one in eight (12%) trusting government leaders.

Now, observing political pursuits during election times on the African continent (and indeed by other international observers!), one cannot fail but notice one word which often comes up by all vying for political office. Of interest – Uganda’s indecies for corruption are placed high at 2.5 by the Transparency International…That word is the need to fight “corruption”; a call of injustice by those opposed to the sitting-regimes, promising change that would bring about an end to corruption: whilst the regime in power also promises to redress corruption and indeed appearing to do so. At times it would appear to be offering up some scapegoats as damage limitation to be written off as collateral damage for the survival of the party’s political ambitions. It can get to be quite interesting to observe if it were not for the sad reality of failure by all to grasp what corruption actually is and how it manifests.

When persons talk about corruption in African politics, often they apply it to government officials, leaders, presidents or those in powerful political status and follow this up in explaining why those less well-off or down the ladder of political status or finance are to excused from “minor “ social deviances in society at large. Hence the abuse in other areas of society at large is not graded or seen as corruption.

Corruption to me comes in all walks of social interactions of society. Starting from the family social norms – the person seen to have financial clout, could determine how to exercise his/her authority in manipulating those around them in order for them remain the “top-dog”. This is often seen when a wealthy member of a family, instead of delegating powers or funds that can remove the dependency mode displayed by all that come to him/her for assistance opts to control the cash pot and instead operates a begging bowl policy. This ensures that all that require to get somewhere in life, have to go through him/her. There are always exceptions to the rule of course in that some persons naturally do not wish to take responsibility for their lives and willingly stay dependent on this system – blissfully happy too. The problem arises when within the family some clever Tom questions the status-quo and wishes to rise above his/her standing of the “dependency mode”. The ensuing outcome could result in acts by the wealthy family member to mobilise support by any means necessary within other members of the family to ensure that his/her authority remains unquestionable and intact. There are not many families within African who will not have had experiences of exploitation, blackmail, witchcraft, deceit, murder even etc…being done to them by close family members simply because they in one way or other felt their authority threatened. Yet how many persons have stopped to ask themselves how the abuse of trust by family members does not equate to corruption? When for instance you get orphaned children’s assets grabbed and sold off by various well-meaning uncles/aunts or even close family friends and the orphans end without anything from their deceased parents? Or when you get family lawyers who are supposed to protect the welfare of these very children opting instead to alter or destroy legal documents to hide the truth of Wills? Or widowed wives who will sell off assets that should be for the off springs to then later claim falsehoods? Or elders within family who side-step transparency of their accountability to their responsibilities and instead opt to wallow in alcohol-induced self pity? Is this not corruption which is at a level that touches each and every person, done by close entrusted persons?

To those that often are quick to point the finger at government as being corrupt I often ask this question? Who is government? Is it not your uncle/brother/sister/dad/mum/aunt/friend who when elected in to a ministerial position you will rejoice in the hope that “now you are made”! For after all, if your relative/friend is in government, you are sure to get a share of the bootie. You can have your kids go live with him to commute to school/hospital for instance and if you don’t have funds for their schooling/medical care, well that’s also sorted. You are certain to get some assistance in one form or other which of course will not be on the ministerial salary but on the allocated budget of what that post is supposed to achieve. But hey – do you stop to ask how this will impact on the intended project that ministerial money should go to? NO – you don’t really care, you just want money for your aim and your ministerial relative can provide a way out.

Or remember that time you needed to get through customs quickly with a shipment you had coming from abroad but didn’t have enough money to clear it through the proper channels? Well that too got sorted. You know someone in customs who was could clear it for you, no questions asked and what the hell if the revenue looses out on tax…you got your goods and made the profit you wanted to finish off that mansion you are building. Life is sweet. As for my son/daughter who is not faring so well at school/university, must make sure I leave an “extra” sweetener for the head teacher/guild president to rectify that. We need a doctor in the family…

Now for these elections coming, best you ensure your front man is on top so as not to disturb your business interests. So what if the roads are poor, just make sure that next shipment brings you the latest 4×4 that can get you to that meeting up north with some foreign donors who wish to start on a project for displaced individuals that cannot make up their minds whether to stay or go out…A note to make an appointment with that clinic abroad again for my medical check-up too.
Oh and yes must remember to mention that we are fighting corruption and find some fall guy to take the hit…

Corruption is innate in all of us – it’s the degree in which it is allowed to take root that determines its long-term effect on a society. We all are guilty of corruption if not directly, but indirectly and should stop and examine our motives and actions before accusing governments/leaders/politicians/presidents of corruption.

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