By Dr Paul Kariuki (DDP Executive Director): CITIZEN PRESSURE CAN END CORRUPTION
The last 12 months have been anxiety-causing months for African countries. We have seen economic turbulence, a rise in social injustices because of poor economic and political governance in most countries as well as an increase in unemployment, especially among young people. In many ways, it has been a year of economic unpredictability and political upheavals.
Notably, most of the elections conducted this year across the continent, were held in very unpromising contexts, characterized by flawed processes, resulting in controversial outcomes Arguably, many of the gains made in the early 1990s, came under threat from governments with little commitment to democracy. But while 2018 presented evidence of the danger of democratic backsliding on the continent, it also saw a rise in citizen activism supported by civil society advocacy efforts. One of the results from these sustained civic and citizens action is the signing of the Political Party Funding Bill.
Whilst the signing of the Bill by President Cyril Ramaphosa is welcomed and historic, all eyes are on its implementation by Parliament. All political parties now by law, required to disclose their sources of private funding. There is no doubt that its implementation will enhance accountability and transparency of South Africa’s political and electoral system. Interestingly, the Bill has been signed at a time when the nation is grappling to understand the BOSASA scandal, juxtaposed in between the State Capture inquiry and the VBS Bank scandal. All these events in the recent months have left the citizenry riling about the gross depths of corruption in the country and the missing checks and balances to mitigate against such a negative trend. Infact, the recent release of Corruption Perception Index (CPI), by Transparency International, confirmed that countries around the globe need to do more if they are to win the fight against corruption.
According to the report, most countries are failing to curb corruption. South Africa ranked number 54 in 2008 falling to number 71 in 2017. Whilst corruption is not a South African phenomenon alone, it is a global concern and calls for a collective citizenry-centred action to hold those in leadership accountable for their actions. This said, the assenting of the Bill by President Ramaphosa, is a step in the right direction, signalling the change that the citizenry is longing to see.
However, the onus now is on the Parliament to speed up processes leading to its successful implementation. However, the timing of its release may not have been not ideal, since political parties do not have enough time to declare their sources of private funding, give their spirited attention to campaigning for votes and the fact that Parliament is still on recess. Whilst the law is not effected yet, political parties are not prohibited from disclosing the sources of their private funding. Infact, doing so before the national and provincial elections, would most likely secure votes from the electorate as it spells a good sign of faith. Nevertheless, it is a welcomed progress towards stemming corruption in the country. Moreover, the Bill stills needs further scrutiny to address any potential loop holes that hamper its original intent – to foster transparency and accountability.
Civil society will continue with its advocacy mission to ensure loop holes are attended to and closed and the legislation process is speeded up without any further delay. At the same time, the sector urges the citizenry to exact pressure on their political parties to declare their sources of funding as part of their manifesto conversations with them.
Overall, our young democracy is maturing fast despite the challenges it is facing. With concerted effort as a society, there is a greater chance of ensuring the ideals of an inclusive country envisioned in our world-acclaimed constitution are realized. Our hard-won democracy, that our founding fathers and mothers, fought hard secure and liberate our country from every form of indignity, demands decisive action against all forms governance malfeasance. Corruption cannot continue unabated neither can youth unemployment be ignored among other pressing challenges. Simply stated, the nation needs an inspiring economic vision, one that is inclusive and promises to lead towards sustainable growth. There is a lot to be done and time for collective action is now. It is in our hands!
This article was published on the City Press, Sunday 10 February 2019.