By Alec Lushaba | 2018-03-10
His Majesty King Mswati III said it all without saying too much when addressing the issue of corruption in his Speech from the Throne when he said: “It is important to note that, as we pursue our economic growth initiatives, we need to upscale our fight against corruption – the enemy of development and foreign direct investment. The kingdom has joined other members of the African Union in declaring 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption year, so let each and every one of us play our part effectively.”
The African Union theme for 2018 is: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”
This theme is informed by the impressive strides being made by a number of Sub-Saharan African countries and the realisation that one of the major keys in attracting foreign direct investment and encouraging economic development would be through fighting corruption.
His Majesty the King has been consistent in his position with regards to fighting corruption where he made this bold and profound statement: “If left unchecked, corruption will certainly destroy our economy and reverse the gains of the past.”
He has always in his speeches emphasised the point about the need to fight corruption and has always had encouraging words for the institutions at the forefront, despite glaring shortcomings and threats to undermine his efforts.
One of the criticisms leveled against countries where corruption is rife is the lack of political commitment.
In Swaziland’s case, the King is at the forefront of the fight, but it appears a systematic and corrosive force which may be corrupt is militating against his clearly pronounced mandate. Our problem is structural, everyone wants to have a say or control how the Anti Corruption Commission should go about doing its job.
Personally I am one of the lucky few who participated in the reviving of the ACC and the notion of strengthening the fight against corruption in the country, when the then Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Prince David in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) and UNDP supported the first ever and last of all stakeholders’ National Anti Corruption Summit in Mavuso in August 2006.
The summit came up with what was later to be known as the National Anti Corruption Strategy and Action Plan.
Unfortunately, none of the agreed principles, actions and structures was ever put in place, but what followed individuals taking advantage of the loopholes or lack of clarity in the Act started to make it their show (that is the Executive and the Judiciary, for whatever reasons started to fight over it).
When the two arms of government started to fight over the direction of the ACC the entire plan went off the window.
The Summit had stated clearly that the fight against corruption to be successful needed all the stakeholders that is government, private and the public through civil society to be involved.
It was on this basis that the Swaziland National Anti-Corruption Strategy was developed by the National Anti Corruption Forum.
As I write today, we are already witnessing interesting scenes, which are aimed at nothing but ensuring that the ACC is a big toothless bulldog like it used to be during the time of one Paddy O’Connor, when it was still a Unit.
When the summit was held we had come to the realisation that development would never be achieved if corruption was kept unchecked hence we had a national consensus that we needed to embark on both the political and economic reforms.
In the absence of systems or structures to ensure transparency of the fight against corruption, individuals continue to undermine all the good work being done by the officers of the Anti Corruption Commission.
To date we still don’t know whether the Thanda Mngwengwe led commission which promised a lot and made a number of high profile arrests has been a success or not, because none of these high profile cases have been given a chance before our courts.
Deliberate and well maneuvered attempts by people, one would expect to enforce the law have ensured that they frustrated the legal process.
Until the courts pronounced on the guilt and not of suspected individuals we are unable to form an opinion on whether Mngwengwe’s time, as commissioner has been a success or not.
All that we have are challenges not on the substance of the cases, but the legality or not of some sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 2006 or the illegitimacy of the commissioner. The Swazi nation is not too much bothered about that, but concerned about the alleged offences, because their existence continue to undermine the country’s image and investors’ confidence.
So when one is reading the events of this year with regards to the renewal and advertising of the post of the ACC Commissioner and the application moved by Senator and former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Sibusiso Shongwe it must be read in context with the machinations to undermine the work of the ACC. It must not be looked at in isolation to the ruling made by the Chief Justice Bheki Maphalala in the ex-parte application by the ACC against former Commerce, Industry and Trade Minister Gideon Dlamini. That ruling which labeled some sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act unconstitutional is yet to be heard by the Supreme Court on Appeal.
It appears there is some concurrence in what was stated by the chief justice in his ruling and what the former minister and Senator is now presenting in his defence against the alleged corruption charges he is facing.
What is ironic is that the minister just before the start of his trial this week raised points that seek to question the legitimacy of the commissioner, a point that is implied in the call for application for the position, where it is now stated that a Swazi is now required to head the commission.
The Act itself does not specify the nationality but make reference to the qualifications as one who qualifies to be judge of the High Court. He/she can be from any country.
Whilst the executive may have not established the structures that supports the work of an independent and free ACC, it is my view that the Judiciary has equally not encouraged the work of the ACC.
In fact, if the above cases are anything to go by, then it is clear that the current leadership, be it the court or the Judicial Service Commission is not worthy to even undertake the task of recruiting commissioners as it is currently conflicted.
We don’t have a Mngwengwe problem as it is made to be. Our problem is bigger than that. It is not even political will, because His Majesty the King has demonstrated time and again his appreciation of challenges caused by corruption, but the State agencies are at war with each other, thereby frustrating any meaningful attempts towards addressing the scourge.
The problem it causes the country is that despite the strides we have made in trying to give investors hope and confidence towards the country is seriously undermined by the confusion we are causing within the judiciary and lack of progress in trying cases before courts.
The disposition of the chief justice and the undertones he implies don’t give confidence to any serious investor, hence decisive action needs to be taken to deal with all those who are standing on the way of fighting corruption.
The dismissal of the then chief justice Michael Ramodibedi demonstrated how dangerous corruption and abuse of power can be if left unchecked. We thought by his removal we had rid ourselves of the cancer, but it appears we are far from winning the fight against corruption.
We are not saying should be abused by stage agencies like the ACC, but they should still have their day in court where the courts will exonerate them. We have seen already some cases by the ACC which appears very weak being delayed and continue to compromise the lives of those implicated.
The CTA case, where today Judge President Sifiso Sibandze walked free after spending about eight years at home, has been a good example of what I am saying.
Even simple cases which should have been dispensed long ago have been deliberately frustrated and we have been denied an opportunity to properly gauge the effectiveness of our ACC.
Our fight against corruption lacks integrity and that undermines any initiative being undertaken as the exercise lack credibility.
Our people need to have trust on government, in the anti corruption agencies and the effectiveness of the anti corruption policies and measures.
I am not convinced by any of our attempts to fight corruption neither do I have confidence in the exercise to recruit the commissioner being undertaken by the JSC. I have confidence that His Majesty the King will read through all these moves and give us someone who will ensure that his idea of a corrupt free country is carried through.
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