By Asterius Banzi
Some African countries have failed to fight corruption because their leaders have themselves been caught on the web, recent developments on the continent suggest. Only fraction of these, seriously engaged in war against corruption.
Take Tanzania and South Africa for example. The two countries are sharply asymmetrical in terms of history, social, political and economic stages of development. But at this particular point in history they find an equation in the kind of lessons they give to the rest of their fellows across the continent.
Tanzania showcases a testimony of African presidents who have the will to eradicate corruption in their countries – a drop in the ocean though – who are forced to employ extraordinary God given virtues to achieve that ambition because they hugely miss systemic support in their countries.
Countries like Kenya and South Africa would tell a different story because existing constitutional and legal structures guarantee a good portion of systemic back up for any willful presidents in those countries.
Recent arraignment of four Members of Parliament for bribe soliciting charges in Dar es Salaam, on one hand, and the finding by the Pretoria’s supreme court, that President Jacob Zuma misappropriated public money for personal gains, on the other, convey two messages across the continent; where there is will there is a way and where there is no will the constitution is the way.
Dr John Pombe Magufuli has not even invoked the constitution of the country, law and procedures governing operations of the country’s Anti-corruption body, Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).
Apparently, what the President did was just to give a positive nod to PCCB. Kind of a verbal permission to bring to justice all corruption suspects regardless of their social or political positions.
And recently, for the first time since its creation under a different name in 1974, PCCB had the courage to drag to court Members of Parliament on charges of soliciting 30 million shillings bribe from a local government council and a government – owned company, Tanzania National Electric Supply Company (TANESCO).
Elsewhere, in the civil service, corruption suspects are being arrested by PCCB officials almost on a daily basis. Holders of public leadership posts smelling of corruption are being terminated from jobs, under the famous “kutumbua majipu” (abscess incision) style.
On the other hand, Jacob Zuma’s example to Africa, is a testimony of lack of will to fight corruption on the part of the President, in a country where, quite luckily, constitution that provides for proper functioning of the theory of Checks and Balances exists.
The decision by the court to order President Zuma pay back some of the USD 16 million spent on renovation of his private residence, and its declaration that he was impeachable president for that offence, has proved the established view of many scholars in Africa that South Africa’s constitution is one of the best. African countries must learn from what is happening now in South Africa.
Tanzania teaches that willingness of the president in combating graft is crucial for success. This means citizens in African countries must make sure they use their power of the ballot during elections to choose only presidential aspirants who have undoubted level of patriotism. Political parties must improve their capacity to filter their candidates and push forward only those with undoubted willingness to fight corruption.
Civil Society organizations (CSOs) will have to do more in enabling citizens make the right choices of their presidents. The countries must also learn from South Africa that the presence of willing presidents alone isn’t good enough for sustainable war against graft in the continent.
They must systematically work to have in place democratic constitutions and functional legal structures within their territories.
Asterius Banzi is a holder of BA degree in Political Science and has done Post graduate studies in Journalism in United Kingdom and United States.