Monday 1 March 2021
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Corruption: Confronting its Dehumanising Effects

Allow me to offer a brief overview how corruption at government level affects us at a human level, and the need for a renewed public consciousness to confront it. While corruption is common in every society, its expression in developing countries is utterly dehumanising. This week’s media reports have just indicated the illogicality entrenched in our public office holders, that they even make excuses concerning the use of a government to transport cement bags – for a personal construction project.
The average public critic and analyst would have us think of corruption in quite political terms and rarely tells the deepening human suffering, disenfranchisement, hopelessness, poverty, powerlessness etc. This form of abstract analysis is devoid of the human element and would have to think of corruption as something affecting operational systems, institutions and infrastructure. A purely academic analysis of the issue creates apathy in the public’s eyes and fails to demonstrate see the seriousness of  corruption on human dignity.
While corruption is detrimental to the progress of society in general, the poor in particular, feel and pay the ultimate price of its consequences. Kofi Anan in one of his presentation on the subject of corruption said, ‘In ways large and small, corruption hurts us all. It impedes social and economic development. It erodes the public’s trust, hurts investment and undermines democracy and the rule of law. It facilitates terrorism, conflict and organized crime.’ In other words, corruption only leads to dehumanisation.
Corruption affects investment and development, which in return leads to the breeding poverty. It is impossible to avoid poverty when the normal means of distributing economic resources is used to corruptly enrich those that are in charge of distribution. These self-enrichment acts by a few impact the provision of essential human services e.g. health care, water supply, education, road infrastructure, job creation etc. The few grafters and those within their pipeline of benefiting increase in their wealth, power and quality of life, but at what cost?
For example, our ever-deteriorating education and healthcare systems, regardless of the billions of dollars assigned to these ministries. While we blame those on the ground to implement the systems, we rarely think about those who are tasked with administrating them. The bulk of funds that are diverted into shoddy tenders, procurements, and ghost employees that erode quality from these services. In addition, because majority who access these public services a generally low-income earners who can’t afford private healthcare and education, they are subjugated to systematic disadvantages as a result of grafting.
Many countries have established anti-corruption institutions, including Namibia. While I cannot speak for other countries, I can refer to the situation home. The ACC established by act of parliament does not inspire hope (in ordinary citizens), with all the power to act as a watchdog it does not have the authority to go after the very people who are politically connected (chief instigators of corrupt acts that fuel dehumanising social conditions).
Apartheid was a legalised act of corruption and we decried it. However, the degree of corruption that continues today, in public institutions has not indicated that we really hated Apartheid, except that it was in favour of few White people. The ordinary person has only gone from one system of corruption to another. Thousands of people continue to be unemployed, unskilled, living in shacks, struggle to make a decent living etc. The consequences of their economic poverty has resulted in powerlessness to decide even on the most basic issues that affect their lives(such as what to eat, what to wear, where to live, what school to attend, where to socialise etc.).
The human condition of seeing many able bodied young men standing at traffic lights in search of day jobs and eventually turning to begging isn’t as a result of urbanisation. It is rooted in the lack of initiatives of our social and human development programmes which results in the diversion of allocated funds to be channelled to corrupt self-enrichment.
Unless we begin to see that corruption prevents ordinary people from decent living conditions, we will continue to address it only as a political and academic problem. A politicised campaign against corruption will only wield political results and never social transformation. This is why we have seen televised minor cases of junior civil servants charged with corruption, while those who have and continue to illegally take away huge chunks of state resources, are left untouched. If we were serious about the impact of corruption on the ordinary poor people, we would have had functional systems to monitor the sources of the wealth of public servants.
The target of corruption is people, not a government or its systems, it targets the dignity of others for selfish gains and it is sad that our government and legal system don’t do much to protect the ordinary people against this economic gangsterism. We need renewed levels of citizen education that will hold its government accountable and create awareness that the public and not the government is custodian of state resources, and should be used to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable among us. The political will required to change this current socio-economic onslaught and pillage must come from the public that feels the brunt of this dehumanisation.
Basilius M. Kasera
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are in my private capacity, based on Article 21 of the Namibian constitution, granting freedom of speech and expression. They are not views of my employer IUM or its affiliates.

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