IN the end, it depends on how you view corruption in high places. I refer here to the curious case of Bo Xilai, the former Chinese political hotshot recently on trial on corruption charges.
The climax is likely to end his once glittering political career.
There is corruption all over the world. Some have little of it, while others burst at the seams with it.
In South Africa recently, there was the case of a woman ANC cabinet minister.
She admitted she had lavished gifts on her boyfriend – including airfares to faraway places with strange-sounding names – with taxpayers’ money.
Parliament threw the book at her, but the punishment was woefully lenient. She would not quit her seat.
It’s probably unfair to say this of President Jacob Zuma, but the lady might have asked how her case compared with that of the leader of her party.
She was not heard to complain that “love sucks”, but neither was Zuma, after “the shower” incident.
But again it depends on how the ANC – or South Africans, in general – view corruption in high places.
Julius Malema’s case has fascinating poignancy. After all the “bad things” he did, he had the guts to form a new political party, which people joined — without being pressed to do so.
Is Malema’s record of probity in legally dubious activities not dark enough to qualify him for some kind of sanction or censure? If it is not, then God help South Africa.
But back to Bo Xilai: I suspect that many African leaders, starry-eyed admirers of the Chinese communist party, must be alarmed at the zeal with which the party pursued its campaign to destroy his political career.
He must have rubbed particularly important people the wrong way to be pursued with such zeal.
Other Chinese politicians have got away, if not with murder, then certainly with acts for which they ought to have been punished heavily.
Many African leaders admire the Chinese system for one reason: the ruling party is all-powerful.
It cannot be challenged.
If it is challenged, the challengers can be sure to regret their act.
Again in South Africa, there was the case of a top official of the union movement, COSATU, the ANC partner in the government. He too might have complained – to no-one in particular – that “love sucks” because he had sex with a junior union official.
Ordinary South Africans must be wondering why, with some of their people not eating enough to survive, not being housed properly, not receiving a proper education and not being employed, their leaders get up to such shenanigans as spending taxpayers’ money on their boyfriends.
African leaders do not take corruption seriously enough.
Unfortunately, even the voters treat this scourge, not with the severity it deserves, but as some kind of joke.
Among the most corrupt countries in Africa is Nigeria.
No leader has emerged since independence in 1960 to launch an anti-corruption campaign that would yield the desired results.
Up to the time of his death a few months ago, the iconic novelist Chinua Achebe, was still unconvinced that his country had redeemed itself from his portrayal of a state teeming with corruption in high places.
Nigeria is endowed with enough natural resources, including oil, to give its people the most satisfactory cost of living on the continent.
If it did, people would not steal oil by busting pipelines.
South Africa has shown little inclination to get its leaders to discard their selfish ambitions in favour of lifting the standard of living of the people to a level they had probably not imagined possible since the end of apartheid.
It would be unfair to blame Nigeria’s and South Africa’s leaders’ failure to adequately provide for their serve on corruption alone.
There is the competence and dedication of their public service.
There is the political will of, not only the government and its apparatus, but also of the people, to ensure there is food, jobs, health, education, roads and infrastructure.
In Africa, not enough of the people know the power of The Vote.
The politicians ensure they know as little as possible of this power.
The Truth is being kept from them – by hook or crook.
- Bill Saidi is a writer based in Harare