By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK With escalating cases of corruption in Southern Africa, MPs are being urged to adopt a more decisive role in the fight against corruption. In Southern Africa, the spiralling costs of corruption fast gobbles up millions of dollars much needed for economic growth and development. Estimates are that Africa loses US$150-billion every year as a result of the vast web of corrupt incidents and underhand dealings in both the public and private sectors. This is twice or thrice the amount of money allocated for national financial budgets. However, while the cost of corruption can be estimated in dollar terms, the corrosive effects of it reach much further down the social ladder and severely infringes on the poor as well as human rights and governance. The human rights of the poor, elderly, women and children are violated by a few selfish-minded individuals that just want to make a quick buck. Against this background, close to 50 parliamentarians from Southern Africa as well as anti-corruption experts from civil society converged in the capital for a three-day ‘Regional Parliamentary Conference Against Corruption’ this week. The aim of the three-day conference is to find specific proposals on how to strengthen the role of parliamentarians in the fight against corruption. Through sharing knowledge and experiences about corruption and anti-corruption measures, the objective is to come up with a regional legislative framework on anti-corruption that would boost the SADC Protocol Against Corruption. Speaker of the National Assembly, Theo Ben Gurirab, stressed that with the ongoing campaign of zero-tolerance against corruption, parliamentarians must ensure that the thoughts of disillusionment, despondency and betrayal that currently exist in the minds of people be wiped out. Otherwise, if this noble anti-corruption drive prevails while corruption continually strips people of their own money meant for social-economic development, then “people have the right to accuse us of hypocrisy”. “It would be justified in feeling this way in all our countries when they see big fish getting away scot-free, while the little ones face the wrath of the law,” added Gurirab. As members elected into parliament by the people, MPs should execute their tasks based on the three principles of selflessness, objectivity and leadership & accountability. “We shouldn’t seek to gain financial and other benefits for ourselves, family and friends. We must be objective in the way we execute our responsibilities and make decisions and choices on merit, in the best interests of the people,” he said. At the same time MP’s should lead by example, subject themselves to public scrutiny and adhere to disclosure as required by the law. There should be no compromise on the way we deal with the various acts of corruption, because in most cases it is at the expense of the poor. While in every situation, there is the corruptor and the one who receives – both have to face the wrath of the law. “Both the corrupted and corrupter must pay a heavy price. There must be no holy cows and exceptions of any kind. Corruption will be eliminated in our countries not by conferencing, good intentions or repeated threats, but only by courageous, political leadership determined to ensure that the crime faces the sword of justice,” concluded Gurirab. Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Dr Kasuka Mutukwa, said the time had come for parliamentarians to raise their voices on corruption. “Can we be on the sidelines while our societies are being ravaged by corruption – that is the question,” said Mutukwa. Although governance is generally improving in Africa, the various forms of corruption still remain a big challenge. Expressing this viewpoint Resident Representative of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Hubert Schillinger, said as members representing the people and elected by the people, “parliaments must be at the centre of the struggle to attain and sustain good governance, to promote transparency and democratic accountability and to fight the scourge of corruption”. Thus, parliamentarians must lead by example and be committed to the public they serve. The conference that ends tomorrow (Thursday) was jointly organised by the SADC Parliamentary Forum and the National Assembly and funded by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
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