Like most folks in South Africa, I’ve been following the “Nkandla-gate” story with much interest. For those of you who may not know what I’m talking about, Nkandla-gate refers to the security upgrades currently being performed to President Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla. The cost, an estimated R203 million (almost US$25 million), has, predictably, riled South Africans who, reasonably, feel this is too lavish. From whom does President Zuma need R203 million worth of protection from? Julius Malema? Fezeka Kuzwayo? Oops, too much?
Anyway, the terms “tsotsi” and “corrupt” have been thrown around so, yes, people are exasperated. This isn’t the first time President Zuma, affectionately known as “Jay Zee”, has had a run in with the term “corruption” (remember Schabir Shaik and the US$5 billion arms deal?). In fact, nowadays his government appears to have virtually trademarked the term.
I should point out, somewhat obviously, that Africa is not the only continent with countries plagued by explicitly discernible corruption. Think North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Venezuela (congrats on your re-election Hugo, I see you), etc. The only reason I am solely discussing African countries is because I have a vested interest in Africa, what with being African and all.
Only seems fair to start with South Africa’s neighbour, Swaziland, whose government does the corruption thing quite well. The Kingdom’s ruler King Mswati III has a personal fortune of over $100 million, a palace for each of his 13 wives (13? I can’t even handle one), and a fleet of luxury cars. Meanwhile 60% of the population lives below the poverty line and almost 1 in every 4 are HIV-positive.
In true Godfather style, Armando Guebuza, Mozambique’s president, is said to gain from the country’s growing drug trade as Mozambique is fast becoming one of Africa’s most active narcotics transit point. Meanwhile, Omar Al-Bashir, president of the Sudan for over 20 years is accused of siphoning some US$9 billion of Sudan’s finances into his private bank accounts in the United Kingdom. Sudan recently split into two countries (Sudan and South Sudan)…hope that doesn’t mean twice the siphoning of finances.
Mwai Kibaki and his Kenyan government lose almost 30% of the country’s national budget to corruption. “Kitu kidogo” they say in Kenya, which is Swahili for “something small” (as in give me something small on the side), is a motto for plenty a corrupt official. Kenya’s neighbour Somalia has a new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who only came to power in September of this year, so we’ll give him a chance. But the preceding government frequently failed to account for millions of dollars.
Do I have to mention Zimbabwe’s government? I love Zimbabwe but my goodness is the corruption rampant. In 2011, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti claimed at least US$1 billion in diamond-related revenue was unaccounted for. Weirdly enough, this was better than in 2008 when they were losing about that amount daily for a time. President José Eduardo dos Santos and his Angolan government are faced with persistent corruption which results in Angola’s oil wealth not reaching the nation’s poor.
The list of corrupt leaders seems unending but it’s not all bad. It’s not like every single official in every single country is on the take or hiring their nieces and nephews. There are some very good African leaders fighting the good battle. President Ian Khama and his Botswana government are doing a great job keeping the country relatively free from the cancer that is corruption. Likewise, President Jorge Carlos Fonseca and his Cape Verde government are trying hard to keep the country’s service-oriented economy somewhat free from corruption.
Zambia’s Michael Sata, or King Cobra, as he would rather be addressed, built and won his election on the promise of ridding Zambia’s government of chronic corruption. Zambians have accused him of taking a politically-motivated and self-interested approach to his anti-corruption campaign. So basically, he’s dealing with corruption but only if it’s committed by those who oppose him. A little hypocrisy never hurt anybody right? J
Other governments that don’t take too kindly to corruption include those of Mauritius, Rwanda, and Namibia, amongst a few others. Well done to you all. An honourable mention must go to Malawi’s president Joyce Banda who recently cut her own salary by 30%. Additionally, she sold the country’ US$13.5 million Dassault Falcon 900EX presidential jet and a fleet of 60 Mercedes Benz government cars. Nice one Mrs President.
For those African leaders who are corrupt and aren’t fighting tirelessly and selflessly for the welfare and security of their people, I say to you, leadership is an action, not a position. So get with the programme.