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Friday, 5 June 2009

Friday Review of Zambian Blogs

The Panel on Zed comments on the latest scandal to hit the Government, the purchase of 100 hearses, which the Minister of Local Government has apparently blamed on President Mwanawasa :
Local government minister Benny Tetamashimba said the hearses were meant to help poor people in the country's rural districts who are always exploited when burying their dead. I think this is madness. Why is government worried about transporting the dead when there is no transport for the sick? One can say a better approach would be to first of all do everything possible to stop people getting sick by providing clean water, sanitation and nutrition. If this can not be achieved, the next step surely is to ensure that people have access to excellent and affordable health facilities when they fall sick. The last thing we should be thinking about is how we transport the dead.
Lusaka Gossip turns the attention to the Ministry of Health corruption scandal, in particular the President's new "war against corruption", reminding us of the monster in the room :
One of Zambia's veteran politician and lawyer, Dr. Ludwig Sondashi, has revealed that President RB's two sons have been implicated in the GMO and Dora Siliya-RP-Zamtel Scandal. Recalling that the President stated that there would be sacred cows in the fight against corruption, the first step against corruption must start with his own sons. This is important to ensure he can clears his own name in order not to be seem to be shielding his sons. Because the scandal involving Dora Siliya and RP Capital is of national significance, the President's rhetoric against corruption will be meaningful if deeds and not words become practical realities.
Tranforming Zambian Politics focuses on the corruption scandals arguing that the problem is leadership, but also to make the penalties stiffer :
The biggest problem in my view is leadership. Our current political leaders MUST retire. They have run their course and should accept the fact that they cannot lead Zambia to a better future because they do not know how to lead in this new political and global economic climate. They continue to seek political office because of the benefits they reap through corrupt practices. Corrupt leaders should be pursued and prosecuted and pay a steep price for their corruption. Long prison sentences would help to this end because if someone faced the possibility of a 2o year prison sentence they would think twice about stealing from the Zambian people.


  1. Corrupt leaders should be pursued and prosecuted and pay a steep price for their corruption. Long prison sentences would help to this end because if someone faced the possibility of a 2o year prison sentence they would think twice about stealing from the Zambian people.

    I would disagree. Look at what the people want and was almost passed by the NCC - oversight.

    Keep as many eyes on the money as possible, and you eliminate the opportunity for corruption.

    I think it is the likelihood of detection, that is a far more efficient deterrent than long sentences.

    Right now, there is very little chance of detection. It is very easy to hide corruption as 'incompetence'. What we need is to eliminate the very opportunity for corruption.

    Accountability, transparancy, and that means many people looking over the shoulders of the people who are spending the money and applying the projects. Have someone watching the money, and have someone watch the people who watch the money.

    If you want to eliminate corruption, that is the way to do it.

  2. MrK,

    I agree.

    As a general principle from empirical work on crime, detection is a better deterrent than punishment.

    BUT I think there's something about "detection" being more dynamic - its not just catching people, but ensuring they face the penalty. This is why I think we need to improve the efficiency of our court systems. We need to simplify the justice process in terms of how we deal with corrupt cases.

    First week of July, I'll appear on Zambia Blog Talk Radio to discuss Corruption : History, Theory and Prevention.

  3. Cho,

    There is a place for having special courts, so that certain types of cases are dealt with quickly.

    On the issue of oversight - why not have a village committee (chief, headmen, prominent citizens) watch over the financial affairs of every council, for monitoring purposes only, as well as an council accountant? And publish all council expenditures at the local council building every month by law?

    First week of July, I'll appear on Zambia Blog Talk Radio to discuss Corruption : History, Theory and Prevention.

    I'm looking forward to it. :)

    I'm in the process of reading Syndroms Of Corruption, by Michael Johnston, and Fighting Corruption In Developing Countries - Strategies and analysis, edited by Bertram I. Spector. I haven't completed them, so I don't know how good they are.

  4. Syndromes Of Corruption - Wealth, power and democracy by Michael Johnston is the best of the two.

    Especially his descriptions of Japan and Botswana are interesting. Despite it's huge economic growth (second largest GDP in the world), there was never an absence of corruption. In fact, huge sums are involved.

    He concludes his description of Botswana, in the chapter Elite Cartels:

    " The countries in this category have weak institutions compared to Influence Market cases, but strong ones when viewed frm the vantage-point of many other societies. Growth in political and economic participation has been significant yet orderly. But when rapid democratization and economic liberalization occur in a setting of very weak institutions, corrupt but durable elite networks are far more difficult to sustain. In their place we are likely to find pervasive insecurity and an economically ruinous, even violent scramble: one in which faction leaders can neither make solid alliances nor gain a decisive advantage, and in which political and economic gains are continually at risk. That is a good description of the Oligarchs and Clans syndrome of corruption - the focus of chapter 6."

    He could have been talking about the Zambian political scene over the last few months.

  5. Cho & MrK,
    There are two distinct groups we can blame for allowing this corruption cancer. First, it is the ordinary Zambian people themselves who tolerate and allow this graft to continue. They do so for permitting these old politicians to remain in their posts. They could have tossed them out a long time ago but they keep on returning them to power. This is regardless of these people failing to perform.

    Instead, they let these corrupt politicians bribe them, with as cheap items as mealie mealie or razor blades. After being bribed for votes, they remain still indifferent when corruption scandals erupt later. They should be appalled and get mad, but they don't. Hence, politicians go unpunished. In a sense then, ordinary Zambians are most ignorant people about their own interests.

    Secondly, the youth – that is to say young Zambians, are not any better than ordinary people. They talk big but take little action. They know that the old guard needs to be replaced but do little to effect the act of kicking out these old men. When they try like the group of Dons who joined Chiluba's MMD or the Siulapwas of Mwanawasa's time - "join them" instead of dethroning the old men with their old habits. Hence, the fight against corruption either gets blunted or encouraged. So long as one lacks strong moral ethics against corruption virtue, they will do nothing because of self interest. Young men fall under this weight.

    In Zambia we do not have young people who have a commitment to fight for the better of their future Zambia. They sit and watch Zambia being ruined in front of their eyes. The old Kaundas stood up against British colonizers against all odds. It requires the same amount of fight (spilling blood in another way) to get rid off this development deterrent - spent force.

    Without these two catalysts - the street anger and resentment by the youth, those corrupt barons will continue in their status quo positions. Nothing would happen because there are no institutions to rely on doing the things MrK is suggesting of: - "Accountability, transparency, and that means many people looking over the shoulders of the people who are spending the money and applying the projects. Have someone watching the money, and have someone watch the people who watch the money".

    The judiciary, Parliament, civil service, and even the civil society are not only themselves corrupt, but they work for or in collaboration with the corrupt masters. To conclude, nothing will save Zambia from this disease but the people themselves. In a hostile environment, nobody would dare drive a Hammer on people’s roads and be spared or build a mansion in front of a dilapidated drugless clinic. Until when ordinary people become aware of what is happening, forget it. That’s my take on this subject.

  6. Kaela, Cho,

    To continue on the theme of who is to blame for corruption, and the book Syndromes Of Corruption - Wealth, Power and Democracy, by Michael Johnston (Cambridge University Press).

    I think this little book is a great starting point for understanding the different types of corruption that exist, and how power runs through society and the economy.

    Michael Johnston divides corruption into 4 kinds: Influence Markets, Elite Cartels, Oligarchs and Clans, and Official Moguls.

    He could have added a fifth - Transnational (or Corporate) Capture. :) I think the idea of corporate capture, beyond government and elite capture is worth examining, exspecially when the corporations who make all the money belong neither to the political or national elites because they are in foreign hands.

    In Johnston's analysis, Zambia is caught between the Official Moguls and Oligarchs and Clans phase. The switch from the One Party State in 1991 to multi-party democracy, but without a corresponding strengthening of institutions and their independence, created the corrupt reign of Frederick Chiluba, the patterns of which seem to have continued under Levy Mwanawasa and now Rupiah Banda.

    The nice thing about Johnston's analysis is that it spans economies from around the globe, in several stages of development, and analyses the nature of corruption at every individual phase.

    The one type of corruption he does not specifically deal with, is Corporate Capture (as opposed to State or Political Capture). Which is what Zambia as a raw materials exporting country that no longer controls it's own mines, suffers from, seemingly irrespective of who is in power. Even today, after the singing of the MoU between the PF and UPND, there is a headline in The Post: "Business community discussing with PF, UPND – Sata". Why would the business community have to be closely consulted, in secret, when the two opposition parties decide to sign a Memorandum of Understanding? What does that really say about who really holds not only the wealth, but the power in the country?

  7. With the economy's lifeblood in the hands of foreign corporations, and those corporations ability to not only break the laws of the land with impunity, and change the laws of the land at will (like the scrapping of the Windfall Tax and getting the finance minister to describe it as 'onerous'), and the extending a patronage network to MPs, the cabinet and other 'civil society' organisations, and those corporations being ultimately protected by the military might of western countries which are free to redefine their economic interests as 'national interests' and threats to their economic exploitation as matters of 'national security' (think of the frequent threats of British military invasion against Zimbabwe), I think there is the need for a new analysis of what lies behind corruption in the country. Who owns both the wealth and the power?

    As such, the 'donors' who can withhold 'donor aid' at will and have done so recently, are among the same countries that these corporations belong to, and which will invade any country of their choosing when it suits them.

    So if corruption is a concentration of wealth (money/business) and power (decision making abilities/politics) in the same hands, and those hands are not the general population of the country (a middle class operating in a democracy), what is the real source of corruption, if not first and foremost the western powers, followed by the local political elites, and their networks of patronage?

    If corruption follows wealth around, then the source of that wealth should get you close to the source of corruption.

    Anyway, Michael Johnston's book gives detailed descriptions of corruption in Kenya and Botswana, as well as Korea and Japan and Germany and Italy.

    Another thing, this foreign ownership of the mines did not exist under UNIP, from independence to 1991. Therefore, this is a new factor to take into account, one that cannot be examined by merely looking at the weakness of institutions (their independence from the President) left as a result of the One Party State.


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