By Given Mutinta
The batonga people of southern province have an adage that says, “mwana utaambwi takomeni.” The plain meaning is that a child who is not criticised will never ‘grow’ or learn what is good and bad for himself or herself and society. The deeper meaning of this aphorism is that people who are open to criticism are more likely to excel in life because they are prepared to accept criticism as a check and balance strategy to success. Going by this maxim, the Patriotic Front (PF) government has just been slung into power and has a great deal to learn with regards governance in democratic dispensation like ours. The noble and simple question is, as a government or leader or cadre, how do you deal with criticism when it is slung to you? Do you take it like a hot double-edged sword stabbing through the core of your heart and makes you astringent or it makes you feel empowered to accept the criticism and cogitate and excogitate on the hot double-edged sword? Old wisdom teaches us that criticism is like a nerve-racking hot double-edged sword that can cause harm or do good depending on how it is taken, and in this fact lies the secrete of a mature person or leader or government.
By accepting to lead our country, the PF government needs to know that they are bound to be times when they will be criticised for failure to be objective and nationalistic in its national conduct. We will not keep quiet and allow our country to be driven into a gulch of destruction. As loyal citizens of this country with eminent diversity, to sit down without shedding light on government’s spurious activities would be failing in our contractual moral mandate. Our hopes to developmentalism and statecraftship are in this incumbent government, and alas, we will not sit down and allow leaders to squander our opportunity to developmentalism. We should never at any given time allow the mentality of caderism to impound our maturation as objective citizens. This is the only way we can learn to differentiate between negative and construct criticism.
The President ofZambia, His Excellency, Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata is being criticized for his smoke thundering appointments of leaders for critical positions in the development of our country. Thus there is need to bear in mind that criticism in this media is never and shall never be directed at any woman or man as a personal attack but will always denounce diabolosism or actions undermining the fiber that makes us who we are as Zambians. The blood that runs in us all Zambians is ‘Zambian’ therefore the horrid head of nepotism has no room in our society. Antediluvian politics based on blood ties belong to the prehistoric age. Government leaders or cadres should not take hard feelings when criticized. If there is one thing that has built up illustrious and distinguished leaders on this globe is the fact that they have learnt to bow to their blunders, work on them and improve themselves. The icon Nelson Mandela, former president of the Republic of South Africa rightfully deserves kudos; he once said that criticism helped him a great deal to be focused and diligent in his duties as leader. It thus goes without a word that most successful leaders and governments are those that welcome criticisms with open arms and maturity. In fact, they want their people to criticise them because they understand that the definition of excellent political service is not theirs but the people’s. We are not saying that PF is a green eyed monster. Ours is constructive criticism and we will always give credit where it is due. On the other hand, we will for ever see blind caderism not in any other perspective but as a pest to society. We should be able to draw a line between accepting criticism that is constructive and given in love and one that is smashed with a pull down syndrome.
The allegation of nepotism in the sitting government is a clarion call to everyone Zambian to be ‘watch dogs’ on government’s potential maladministration such as corruption. Even this wake up call does not relieve us of an obligation to do something before we are swamped by corruption. Quite the opposite, political lethargy bolsters the hand of those who seek profit outside the ambit of law and the economy, and the basic rules and concepts of fairness and justice. Given the current smoke of nepotism, the sitting government has a crucial role to play in ascertaining that nepotism and corruption have no room in our society. Since nepotism is an annexe of corruption there is need to seriously consider a national strategy of fighting corruption before we can nose-dive into this mess.
Since corruption is pedantic than nepotism, it cannot be cleansed or controlled with a generalised strategy. If it is necessary for military forces to have a strategy before the enemy is engaged so as to win the battle, it simply means that national strategy; a perspective, plan and policy is critical to win the battle against corruption. A national strategy may act as a bridge between policy and concrete actions against corruption. Today, is the right time to demand from ‘Satanomics’ a web of thoughts, ideas, insights, experiences, goals and expertise that may provide guidance for specific actions in pursuit of a society that is truly allergic to corruption. We need a clear and widespread understanding of the ends to be obtained in the battle against corruption. Without these ends in view, the battle against corruption may be purely tactical and may quickly be reduced to nothing more than pure mellifluous rhetoricism. The critical question we need to ask ourselves is what strategies do we need to introduce or reinforce to effectively address the epidemic of corruption the PF government is singing about?
The war against corruption will not be won through verbolatry. If we are allergic to corruption, then institutional strengthening should be taken as a critical anti-corruption strategy.Zambianeeds an institution of professional and well-motivated civil service. The selection and promotion in civil service should not be based on caderism rather than merit. Pay of civil servants is also an important issue. Meager salaries are some of the main causes of corruption. The longer the pay remains derisory the more bureaucratic corruption will become ingrained in our society. In civil service we need to revive ethics codes and institutional values to protect a civil service’s integrity and professionalism.
We totally agree with Sata that the judicial system needs a breath of life. However, it is unworkable to enforce anti-corruption legislation without an efficient and accountable judiciary. Reform of the judicial system should concentrate on the autonomy of this organ. There is also need to improve court administration and case flow management. If courts are to be effective strict mechanisms to enforce rules and judgments should be employed. If people know that rules are austerely and consistently enforced they are likely to be dissuaded from engaging in corrupt behaviour.
We also need realistic budget reform to combat corruption. Government should undertake only what it can do well within its resource constraints. No biting more than you can chew. Government should revitalize functioning budget processes, allocate resources strategically, and enable projects to be implemented efficiently. There should be frequent reports to the legislature on budget implementation that enable comparisons to be made between budgeted and actual revenues and expenditures. A legal framework for public expenditure management should combine legal principles with economic consideration as well as management rules. Government should ensure that public resources are used within the limits set and in compliance with the allocation schedule authorized in the budget document. Government ministries, commissions and agencies should be encouraged to produce annual reports on their activities, achievements, and financial results, and national governments should report these in consolidated form. The publication of government budgets and their availability in easy-to read summary form also may help to control corruption.
We need a good financial management system to prevent, discover and facilitate the punishment of fraud and corrupt officials. A good financial management system can help to allocate clear responsibilities for managing resources, reveal improper action and unauthorized expenditures and facilitate audit by creating audit trails. By reducing opportunities for corruption and increasing the risks of detection, it may help change corrupt conduct in our society.
There is also need for the new government to view audit and control as valuable instruments for improving government fiscal management and for increasing the efficiency in the allocation of public financial resources. The reinforcement of auditing may intervene before resources are committed. Therefore, corrupt activities could be stopped before they would have an impact on the use of resources. After the completion of the budgetary cycle-budget preparation and implementation-results must be assessed retrospectively so that officials can be held accountable for results achieved.
Civil society and the media are crucial to creating and maintaining an atmosphere in public life that discourage fraud and corruption. They are arguably the two most important factors in eliminating systemic corruption in public institutions. The media such as the Zambian Watchdog that is playing an important role as a ‘watchdog’ of both private and public sectors should be hailed not threatened.
There is need to launch anti-corruption or rather ‘clean hands’ campaigns. Such campaigns may help to legitimize effect, in that they indicate that the state is serious about fighting corruption. Campaigns should be properly managed because they can mobilize individuals and society against corruption.
It is high time we had an independent and revived anti-corruption commission. We cry out for an institution that will go hand in hand with a good example set by honest leadership. We do not want a situation where the anti-corruption commission will be misused for political gain.
Coming up with a national strategy is very important in ‘Satanomics’ if we were to effectively combat corruption. This however, means that there is need to consciountise people on why corruption is pain in the neck to our society. Corruption can only be controlled when people understand its evils and no longer want to stomach it.
However, the fight against corruption may build to nothing if we do not have honest, hardnosed and down-to-earth leaders, who are good examples for other politicians and public officials.