Dear president Zuma, corruption is not a Western paradigm nor a victimless crime

The City Press recently reported that “one of the reasons President Jacob Zuma believed criminal charges against him relating to the arms deal should be dropped was because corruption is only a crime in a Western paradigm”.

The report further stated that “even if it was a crime, Zuma’s lawyers apparently argued, it was a crime where there are no victims”.

These statements come from president Zuma’s 2009 written representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Another media report, this time by Beeld, stated that Zuma was part of a broad corruption scheme intended to benefit the party in perpetuity.

The ANC responded, saying that it was “unfazed” by this report and that “there is nothing new in the report”.

“This is an old concoction of a campaign that never dies, that seeks to discredit the leadership of the ANC,” the party said.

The true impact of corruption

South Africa’s Corruption Watch website states that corruption and bad management practices eat into the nation’s wealth, channelling money away from social grants, education, hospitals and related project.

Corruption therefore hurts the very people who are most dependent on government for support.

“Studies around the world show how corruption can interrupt investment, restrict trade, reduce economic growth and distort the facts and figures associated with government expenditure,” Corruption Watch said.

“But the most alarming studies are the ones directly linking corruption in certain countries to increasing levels of poverty and income inequality.”

A research paper on Transparancy.org substantiates Corruption Watch’s views, stating that corruption adversely affects long-term economic growth through its impact on investment, taxation, public expenditures and human development.

“Corruption is also likely to undermine the regulatory environment and the efficiency of state institutions as rent-seeking distorts incentives and decision-making processes,” the paper states.

“Not only does corruption affect economic development in terms of economic efficiency and growth, it also affects equitable distribution of resources across the population, increasing income inequalities, undermining the effectiveness of social welfare programmes and ultimately resulting in lower levels of human development.”

According to Grant Thornton, government corruption has the following consequences:

  • Undermines democracy and the rule of law;
  • Hampers the development of markets and drives away investments;
  • Leads to loss of confidence in institutions and the de-legitimisation of government;
  • Increases costs of services/products and lowers the quality of services as contracts are not ordinarily awarded to the appropriate bidder;
  • Allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.

What the ANC says about corruption

It is not necessary to look at academic studies or anti-corruption organisations to establish that corruption is bad for a country and causes people to suffer.

The ANC said that it is its view that if “crime and corruption is not firmly attended to, it has the potential to reverse our hard won democratic gains”.

“Crime and corruption hampers the pace of government service delivery to our people,” the party said.

“The ANC believes we must be tough on corruption, nepotism and bribery regardless of who is involved.”

The ANC’s 2014 Election Manifesto promised to intensify the fight against corruption in both the public and private sectors.

What Zuma says about corruption

In a 2011 message from President Jacob Zuma, he said that government has identified corruption as a key threat to achieving government objectives.

“Our goal is to build a performance oriented state that is free of fraud and corruption,” said Zuma.

“Corruption within the public sector undermines the moral authority of the State. It inhibits socio-economic development and contributes to delays in delivering services to our people,” he added.

In 2013, Zuma said that the ANC is determined to root out corruption.

“Wherever there is corruption in government we will not hesitate to act, the ANC itself has decided that corruption in any form must be exposed and those found guilty must recuse themselves from leadership positions,” said Zuma.

These statements by Zuma and the ANC stand in stark contrast to Zuma’s alleged statement to the NPA in 2009 that corruption is only a crime in a “Western paradigm”, and that there are no victims.

BusinessTech contacted the presidency to find out whether Zuma did indeed Zuma use these arguments in his 2009 written representations to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The presidency was also asked whether it is president Jacob Zuma’s view that corruption is only a crime in a Western paradigm, and that it is a victimless crime.

Unfortunately the presidency did not respond by the time of publication.

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Dear president Zuma, corruption is not a Western paradigm nor a victimless crime