Fighting Corruption

One of the key barriers to tackle corruption is that the people living in low income communities who are most affected by acts of corruption are mostly left out in the discussions. The complexity of the classification of corruption in many cultures requires that people living in low income communities participate in defining what constitutes corruption. Corruption definition invented at New York, Vienna or Geneva conventions cannot pass the test in many African countries. African leaders whose countries are signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) know that commonly used definition of corruption such as ‘the misuse of public office for private gain’ is irrelevant because the leader in Africa is the guardian of  public resources. How can a custodian of the ‘forest’ be charged with abuse of the forest?

For example, in several African countries there is no limit to how much a president, first lady, chief or any public leader can receive as gift in terms of money, vehicles, houses and other resources as a result of their official duties. These leaders have power to decide whether to use such gifts for personal use or for the benefit of the communities they serve. The receiver of such gifts decides if they be used for family gain or to prop up political support and power. In Vienna however, when a president, chief or a chief executive use entrusted power in this way, it will be construed as corruption. But in Africa such leaders earn praise for being innovative in using their position to transform their own economic situation and for preserving their political and business power.

There is need to focus on building capacity in local communities where people are vulnerable, isolated and already poor. Many are ignorant on how corruption has contributed to hinder them to access better quality of education, health and shelter and safe and clean drinking water.  A biblical story illustrates how an empowered vulnerable person was able to stand up to an evil king because he knew his rights. In 1 Kings 21 we read about a king who wanted to get a prime land near his palace that was owned by a commoner, Naboth. Naboth refused to sell the land to the king and the king could do nothing about. Even though the story ends sadly because the king’s wife, Jezebel was able to use corrupt means that ended with murdering Naboth to get the land. The critical reflection here is that the king was also subject to the same law. This story concludes with Elijah the prophet telling the king that even though the law of the land had not found him guilty for the murder he committed he will get his justice in due course from God.

In Africa many of our people in low income communities are isolated and intimidated by the word corruption. Like Naboth, they too can overcome fear when they know that systems protect everybody who is right irrespective of their status in society. They can stand up against corruption especially when trust is built between communities, government officials, churches, businesses and other leaders and work to combat corruption together. Nevertheless, even when the system is absolutely corrupt an Elijah with a word from the Lord can still help and change the direction.  We have so many churches in every community. The question is do we have ‘Elijah’s’ in those churches?  God bless those Elijahs’ of our time who have a word from Him to those “who oppress the poor and crush the needy” (Amos 4). God bless the Dorcas who are empowering the widows and the weak. His name be worshipped for the presence of His church which is making a difference in those isolated places.

Lawrence Temfwe