Thursday, September 05, 2013

Before things change, we must change
By Editor
Tue 13 Aug. 2013, 14:00 CAT

No one openly claims to support corruption. Even the most corrupt claim to be opposed to corruption and they can even be ruthless in dealing with those who steal from them.

So when it comes to corruption, one's commitment to fighting it is seen from their daily actions. There are people who are never on the opposite side of the corrupt. They are always defending the corrupt.

And in their defense of the corrupt, they often use the law - accusing those who are fighting corruption of not following the law or of abusing the law. They even forget that corruption is not just a legal matter; it is also a moral or even religious matter. The bible is very clear on this issue. And Christ's entire doctrine was devoted to fighting against abuse, injustice, the degradation of human beings. Christ's doctrine was against stealing, selfishness and exploitation of others.

One doesn't need a constitution, a law to oppose corruption. All one needs is to have an attitude that is opposed to corruption, theft, abuse. And with that attitude, one will embrace a certain type of morality that is incompatible with corruption. And from that, laws that are opposed to corruption may flow. The fight against corruption doesn't start with laws. It starts with an attitude that hates or abhors corruption. This is why those who support corruption enact laws that allow corruption to flourish. We saw this under Rupiah Banda's regime when they went to parliament and weakened the law, changed the law against the corruption fight to allow impunity for the corrupt.

It is clear that when people decide to support certain corrupt elements or deeds, they try to hide their support for corruption under all sorts of legal arguments. Sometimes they are not even ashamed to resort to questioning comas, colons and semi-colons, full stops to justify their disguised support for the corrupt.

We have seen this support for the corrupt being disguised as a defense or a protection for the rule of law when in fact it is nothing but an attempt to protect the corrupt from accounting for their crimes.

Today we are seeing all sorts of arguments being advanced to protect politicians who have been found to be corrupt in their election campaigns. But we know that no matter how these arguments are disguised as defense for the rule of law, they are nothing but support for certain corrupt politicians who have been found wanting. Corruption is corruption no matter how much one wants to disguise it by all sorts of legal jargon or makeup. No matter how much Jaribu or Ambi is smeared on corruption, the Zambian people will not fail to see corruption beneath that.

If corruption is a moral issue, it is equally true that the fight against corruption rests on morality.

Morality is a sentiment, not a law. And morality rests on love for one's fellow human beings, citizens, and not on restraint. The true fight against corruption rests on morality. It is morally wrong to engage in corruption. Even if Rupiah had succeeded to maintain that law that allowed him and his friends to abuse public office with impunity, their actions, although legally permissible, would still be morally wrong. And all morally upright Zambians would not accept their abuses of public office that they have allowed to continue through the enactment of an enabling law.

It is clear that if we have to fight corruption effectively and successfully, we have to change our individual attitudes towards corruption and other abuses.

Before things can change, we must change and build alternative value systems. To acquire a new set of values and build our own capacities for transforming our society, we would need to go through an "Easter" experience. This involves dying and resurrection, letting go of our prejudices, letting go of our bloated ego, and allowing ourselves to be enveloped by the kind of humility and innocence that Jesus saw in small children, the only category of Jewish population Jesus could declare to be worthy of the Kingdom.

This new disposition would call for the adoption of new values that will face life with courage: such as to accept to be different, to stand alone, and even be ridiculed for fighting corruption and for defending justice. New values that will seek to assure the poor and the lowly that what they know is not necessarily inferior compared to the contribution of the so-called legal and other experts. They too have different but equally important world view, their own view of reality.

We believe that for things to get any better in our country, we will need to nurture a new set of values. We will need to develop capacity to listen to those of humble background; capacity to let go of our own professional ego, biases and prejudices; capacity to consider points of view of the ordinary men, women, youth and children, regardless of their socio-economic standing in society; capacity to accept our personal inadequacies and professional mistakes without pretence; capacity to consider others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) in their own areas of experience whether or not we are more or better schooled than they are.

We believe we can only begin to effectively build capacities in others when our own attitudes are right; otherwise how can we build others if we fear being corrected, if we fear being told when we are wrong, in fact if we believe we can never be wrong? We have groups of professionals in this country who think they are always right and only them and them only know.

How can we build others' capacities if we claim to possess the monopoly of knowledge and truth, if we believe that what others have to say is inferior or of less importance, how will we ever listen and learn from them?

How can we enable others to change their situation if we see ourselves as the only ones who can change things, the only ones who can tell right from wrong?

How can we build others' capacities if we are offended when people around us take liberty to be creative, and do things their own way?
There are many things that need to be changed in our lives and those changes should start with us. If we fear change itself, and if we fear being changed, will we genuinely love those who change status quo? It shouldn't be forgotten that 'status quo' is a Latin phrase that literally means 'the mess we are in'. Yet, according to an Ethiopian saying, 'change is the spice of life!' And 'to live is to change, and to live long is to change often'.

We have tolerated corruption, and especially electoral corruption, for almost two decades now. This can't go on forever. Things must change. And the starting point of this change is our own attitudes as the people towards this corruption and those who engage in it. Defending corruption, under whatever legal guises, is wrong. And where the law fails, morality takes over to create and enforce better laws. It is not the law that creates morality. It is morality that gives birth to better and appropriate laws. It is therefore difficult to understand how people try to hide behind comas in the law in their assault on morality. Corruption, in whatever form or guise, is morally indefensible.

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