Dealing with the corrupt amongst us

Namibians have over the years implored their government to sternly deal with corruption in order to protect scarce national resources and to deter would-be offenders.

Government has responded well to this call, and this week’s unearthing of potential corruption at the SME Bank is the latest among a host of efforts being made to detect corrupt practices and deal with them.

Two months ago, in December 2016, government agencies also uncovered an alleged tax evasion scam that has potentially robbed this nation of N$3.5 billion. Also, a ring involving treasury officials and their collaborators was detected at Walvis Bay and the suspects face prosecution.

The cases are too many to all fit on this page. What is however sad is that instead of commending and encouraging government and its agencies to continue their impressive work of unearthing more cases and bringing to book those involved, habitual faultfinders are directing their ire at government – even labeling it corrupt. Granted, there would always be corrupt elements within the government bureaucracy, but it is how fast and efficiently we detect and stop the rot that should define our progress in this fight.

President Hage Geingob alluded to this trend recently when he said he came under attack by some after he publicly declared his assets. Instead of applauding this new sense of movement towards transparency, we use this information to deliberately find loopholes and bash those that are trying to promote transparency. There is no denying that our efforts against corruption could be bettered. But to draw daggers against government every time it detects corrupt practices – and blame it for the very acts it has detected and detained people for – defied logic and enriches the belief that even the supposed anti-corruption loudmouths in our midst are corrupt, perhaps morally.

Opportunists thrive on this kind of approach. They jog by the wayside, waiting for State institutions to uncover corruption and use the opportunity to label government and its as corrupt. It’s a cheap political stunt whose intention is evident for all to see.

Government has upped the ante and its efforts must be commended. However, in order to complete the circle of this fight, a lot needs to be done. It is well documented that those who get locked up for suspected corruption are mostly junior officials, most of who have accepted small-time money in bribes. In the case of SME Bank, for example, officials, who might be involved in a scandal involving nearly N$200 million, walked away with mere suspensions or dismissals. Of course there could be prosecution later, but there are no clear hints towards that intention. If anything, it is people involved in scams like this who must be locked up. At least in the N$3.5 billion case some people were arrested – including the supposedly politically-connected Jack Huang.

Therefore, while we commend government for the surge in its fight against corruption, we must also state that when corruption is dealt with lightly, such actions could be easily construed as cheap PR stunt. We must show intent, decisiveness and genuineness. This way, the habitual faultfinders and armchair critics would have nothing to do but pick their noses in boredom.

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