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11 Mar 2007 23:59
Let us as Africans imagine a world that exists without corruption. As Ben Okri has said, “The worst realities of our age are manufactured realities.
It is therefore our task, as creative participants in the universe, to redream our world.
At this forum, all of us have demonstrated an enormous capacity to redream with a view to transforming our continent into one that is corruption-free. We have collectively made a huge contribution to the corruption/anti-corruption discourse. We have consciously eschewed current discourses which focus solely on perceptions and blame. We have agreed that corruption is a global phenomenon, it is rooted in history but its contemporary manifestations must be located in an understanding of colonialism, neo-colonialism and globalisation. We have suggested that, in the era of globalisation, many states are vulnerable to the power of trans-national corporations.
We have agreed that it is far more useful in developing a common understanding of corruption to focus on the interface between politics and economics. As we have argued throughout, a broader conception and definition of corruption must recognise that corrupt practices take place in the interface between the public sector, the private sector and even the civil society sector.
One of the most significant contributions this forum has made to the discourse on corruption is our insistence on rooting our fight against all forms of corruption in a value system that draws on traditional communal and egalitarian values and on democratic values. Traditional African society was forged on the basis of communal values. Ubuntu, “I am what I am because of who we all are”, contrasts markedly with the values of rampant free-market capitalism under globalisation, which emphasise individual wealth acquisition.
The values of ubuntu and ujamaa (“familyhood” in Swahili—a political concept introduced by former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere) inform our humanity. They tell us that we are human by virtue of doing for others. This is the essence of our spirit of fighting corruption. This is the spirit we must continue to encourage in all sectors of our society. This is the spirit that is necessary for the creation of a socially cohesive and inclusive Africa that is free of corruption.
We all agree we are defined by our relation to others, and that we must subscribe to the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. Then it follows that we, individually, collectively and as nation states, must be judged by what we do for others in the public and, more importantly, in the private spheres.
We must reject the view that, as individuals, we are linked only by commercial transactions and that we are accountable to no one, and need to justify our actions to nobody. Chinua Achebe believes that “any good story, any good novel, should have a message, should have a purpose”. And the story of this forum is that we have purpose and political will to root out and prevent corruption.
In Things Fall Apart, Achebe shows us that justice and fairness are matters of great importance in traditional African societies. They have complex social institutions that administer justice in fair and rational ways.
But colonialism upset that balance. And the colonisers on their so-called civilising mission declared local laws to be barbaric, and they used this claim as an excuse to impose their own laws. And things truly fall apart and the moral centre of traditional society and the bonds of humanity are broken.
As we develop our economies and our countries, let us be mindful that we cannot have development at all costs. We cannot develop by allowing a permissive environment for corruption to flourish. Corruption is detrimental to long-term sustainable development. Corruption costs and grand corruption costs even more. Corruption is inimical to development; it perpetuates inequality, increases wealth and asset gaps between rich and poor on national, regional, continental and global scales. It reproduces conditions of underdevelopment and poverty. It is morally wrong and offensive; it is illegal and it can no longer be tolerated. It must be eradicated.
And we collectively must dedicate ourselves to its eradication.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi is Minister of Public Service and Administration. This is an edited extract of her March 2 closing remarks to the African Forum on Fighting Corruption in Ekurhuleni
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