By Pamela Shumba
Zimbabwean businessman and Econet Wireless founder Mr Strive Masiyiwa has called for a genuine reform of policies and stronger accountability mechanisms if corruption has to be defeated in Africa.
Mr Masiyiwa, who is also a philanthropist was speaking at the annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on Monday night at Cape Town’s City Hall, South Africa on the Archbishop’s 88th birthday.
He was delivering a public lecture on corruption, which he said was no laughing matter as it destroys nations but insisted that it was not unstoppable.
“We have to deal with the perception and the reality of corruption. I always interact with the young people and I’ve talked to them about corruption. We need to change our mindsets. It’s not inevitable. It’s not unstoppable. Corrupt people want us to believe that it’s unstoppable.
“However, it’s going to take a generational fight just like we had to take on apartheid, colonialism and other things. This is the pandemic of our time. It’s an elephant in the room to Africa’s progress. We need genuine reform of policies and a legislation framework to improve transparency and accountability.
“This we know,” said Mr Masiyiwa.
He said it was important for countries to remove opportunities and abilities to illicitly gain through the use of authority and put teeth into enforcement.
He said globally, a total of $13,4 trillion had been lost to corruption, an amount that could have done a lot in terms of investment and development.
“It’s not that we don’t have legislative frameworks to fight corruption. Actually, I know the laws here in South Africa. We discuss them in boardrooms but if you talk about the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Anti Bribery Act, some men stand up and go to the bathroom while others start coughing because they know there’s enforcement.
“If one trips over it there’s enforcement, the law enforcers come after you. It’s not about smart policy making or legislature. We must have legislature that aligns with the rhetoric that we speak on corruption.
“We say a lot on corruption but we don’t find enough legislation to support the level of rhetoric. Those who are involved in corruption know it that we need enforcement and the capacity to reach out but unfortunately for us in Africa you can’t go after people in high offices such as Ministers and Governors,” said Mr Masiyiwa.
He said the architecture around institutions like Interpol was not enough to successfully fight corruption.
“We need to take the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as the gold standard and say to India, China, Israel, Brazil and Europe, where are you on this? Without doing that we’re never going to win this.
“We need to ensure that in our policymaking we include institutions of enforcement such as the Global Anti-Corruption Agency,” said Mr Masiyiwa.
He said it was unfortunate that people bemoan corruption but still find it convenient to pay a police officer on the road who demands a bribe.
“We need to pay a price to fight this. There is nothing worth fighting for which you’re not prepared to pay the price. We have to enforce laws that help protect whistleblowers.
“What I’ve experienced with corruption is that the only people who know it’s a secret are the people involved but a lot of other people know everything. We have work to do. It’s the responsibility of all of us to fight corruption,” said Mr Masiyiwa. The Chronicle