/ 2 April 2007

Mbeki: Corruption distorts freedom, human values

Corruption distorts human values and freedom and negatively affects the delivery of services to those most in need, President Thabo Mbeki said on Monday. The president was speaking in Sandton, Johannesburg, at the Fifth Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Protecting Integrity. The conference brought together delegates from over 100 countries.

Corruption distorts human values and freedom and negatively affects the delivery of services to those most in need, President Thabo Mbeki said on Monday.

The president was speaking in Sandton, Johannesburg, at the Fifth Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Protecting Integrity.

Opening the forum, Mbeki said: ”Corruption in all its forms and manifestations constitutes a process that negates the democracy and development [that] ordinary people need to transcend the boundaries of their world of poverty, underdevelopment and disempowerment.”

The conference, held for the first time on African soil, brought together delegates from over 100 countries to share knowledge and develop measures to end the global ”scourge” of corruption.

Mbeki urged delegates to locate anti-corruption instruments within a development and anti-poverty framework.

” …anti-corruption discourse, while obviously absolutely necessary, must not be seen as an end themselves. They must be firmly located within a development and anti-poverty discourse — a people’s contract that binds the democratic state to the citizenry and promotes the value of human solidarity and public accountability.”

Corruption is not necessarily caused by poverty. Rather, it furthers entrenched poverty and negates the potential for development.

Mbeki reflected on the Western perception that corruption is ”peculiarly African”, … ”something to do with the biological character of the African”.

He emphasised that the global discourse on corruption must begin with the recognition that it affects all countries — developed or developing.

Public Services and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi also reiterated that corruption is a global phenomenon ”rooted in history”.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the Africa Forum on Fighting Corruption held in February in Ekurhuleni, she urged delegates to infuse the African traditions of egalitarian and democratic communal values into the global discourse on corruption.

”The value of ubuntu and ujamaa inform all of us of our humanity,” she said.

”They tell us that we are human by virtue of the mutual support we give one another. This is the key motive force in our fight against corruption.”

Fraser-Moleketi said: ”Now is the time to infuse into the global discourse this African perspective …

”One of the most significant contributions the African forum made to the discourse on corruption is our insistence on hinging our fight against all forms of corruption on building integrity systems based on traditional communal, egalitarian and democratic principles.”

Delegates heard that the World Bank estimated in 2004 that a figure of over $1-trillion is paid in bribes each year.

German Ambassador to South Africa, Harro Adt, speaking on behalf of Group of Eight (G8) head Chancellor Angela Merkel, said a figure of a further $4-billion was linked to corrupt practices.

African nations demonstrate a ”strong political will” to eradicate corruption and this is also an important priority for the G8, he said.

Ghana’s Justice Minister, Joe Ghartey, welcomed the global nature of the forum in his address on behalf of African Union President John Kufuor.

He said African countries often experience difficulty in recovering proceeds of corruption from banks outside the continent.

”Africa has difficulty recovering proceeds in banks outside Africa … and prosecuting corrupters who have fled results in complex legal wars,” he said.

He added that the fight against corruption is not isolated and that corruption is often linked to organised crime and the drug trade.

”A holistic approach is required … the fight involves us all. This is the greatest public form of expressing a collective will to fight against corruption.”

The chairperson of the National Accountability Bureau in Pakistan, Shahid Aziz, told the South African Press Association that combating corruption in a globalised world is challenging.

”Many identify Pakistan as a country with high levels of corruption … the main push [for corruption] and the money comes from people outside of the country — they are moneyed, well-connected globally,” he said.

His country has recovered about $2-billion to $3-billion since the inception of its constitutionally appointed anti-corruption agency.

”Countries should create harmony between their anti-corruption agencies. They must be outside of government control but they must understand the compulsions of government, especially as related to the economy,” Aziz advised.

A recent survey conducted by Markinor found that at least half of the adult population in South Africa believe that corruption is widespread among government officials.

Civil servants are seen to be corrupt by almost half of the population and managers of private businesses are seen as corrupt by more than a third of the 3 500 South Africans surveyed.

Progress made by South Africa in combating corruption is well documented according to the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF). The NACF website said a comprehensive impact assessment of the country’s anti-corruption framework will be conducted soon, focusing on the impact of corruption on all sectors of society. — Sapa