President John Magufuli frequently talks about corruption and how it has eroded the ability of the state to function properly; that it is at the root of our continued dependence to foreign donors and the begging mindset in general. That our country is not poor; it has never been poor as many politicians and leaders in the past have claimed. While launching a new radar at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, he briefly reminded us of a corruption scandal that broke some years back involving a failed attempt of procuring a new radar. The money paid for the same “disappeared” and life went on.
That was just one corruption scandal out of the so many mega corruption scandals which came to be such a staple of our politics. As years went by, corrupt officials were more daring in their endeavours because the state was far too compromised, its institutions far too weak to do anything to adequately deal with corruption. Corruption is such a permanent fixture in our daily lives that few of us bother to understand this cancer that has weakened our successive governments, leading to failures on the delivery of basic services to the common people.
There was a time when corruption was legalized, for those in politics, and given different colour to cover the obvious.
Politics is organized in such ways that make it near impossible to rise anywhere without the overstretched patronage system. One needs godfathers and godmothers go rise to the top of the political pile. Now and then when some character shoots to the top without the blessings of the guardians of this rotten system, they are enticed to join it as part of prolonging their political careers.
Political parties play a huge role in this corrupt culture.
They form the government of the day. The constitution and the relevant laws require anyone who wishes to run for public office to be a member of, and endorsed by a political party regardless of whether the said individual knows anything about the political party sponsoring him or her t run for elected public office.
In this system, political parties have such a stranglehold of our political space to allow any other players to join the fray. They have a monopoly of the field.
This monopoly has played a huge part in leading us to where we are today with corruption.
For the last two decades, several politicians rose because of exposing mega corruption scandals. They made their names precisely because of this cancer; they pointed out how the ruling elites were plundering the country like the colonialists before them. And maybe this where it all started.
Those who ruled this continent, did not instill the notion of public service to those who inherited public offices from them, and as soon as we were politically independent, many of the countries retreated into all sorts of madness like ethnicity, religion, regionalism to the point no one bothered with the troublesome task of nation-building.
We did not waste precious time trying to learn with what it means to be “independent”, and those who joined politics from the early days became the creatures of envy and jealousy for the majority of the people, who, overtime did not think about corruption too much.
Every survey carried out in many countries on the continent will mention corruption as one of the serious problems affecting their daily lives. Strangely, some of the politicians rumored to be the most corrupt survive time and again.
These days, newspaper headlines about corruption are different from those of a near-past. These days, one reads more about corruption in local governments. Everywhere government ministers go, and you read of officials accused of embezzling public finances. In the past, much of the reporting was about the link between the ruling party, and some government officials.
Corruption has never been defeated. President Magufuli has been trying but the system was broken for so long that it is just impossible for officials to suddenly give up easy money and do their best in service of the people. Fingers are still pointed to state institutions which deal with justice, and revenue collections.
Despite all the efforts, there are still many parts rotting. The mindset has to change, from seeing corruption as a necessary part of our daily lives to seeing its true colors; that it is what keeps the ordinary people chained to their poverty.
Mr Mwakibete is a socio-political commentator basedin Dar es Salaam. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org