Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Stay away'
By Editor
Wed 18 Dec. 2013, 14:00 CAT

Auxiliary Bishop of Chipata, Benjamin Phiri, preaches that corruption is a sin against God. We agree.

Bishop Phiri wonders why corruption has become a way of life among some people in Zambia and that people who are supposed to serve the public do not do the right thing if they are not bribed. He wonders why such people, such corrupt people, go to church to receive sacraments. Bishop Phiri wonders what such sacraments are for and concludes:

"It is better you just stay away because your works are for Satan and not God. People should do a deeper reflection of their lives and repent truly."

Corruption is harmful to the community and no religious congregation should tolerate it. There is need for the Church to join the fight against corruption just as much as it does against other sins. There is no religious congregation that accepts and tolerates sin. And this being the case, why should corruption, being a sin, be tolerated by our religious congregations?

It is time our churches and their leaders took a strong stand against their corrupt members and joined hands with other social forces to fight corruption.

The enjoyment of our people's right to an adequate standard of living would require a search for viable means to end corruption, bearing in mind that the sources of corruption are both structural and personal.
While it is notoriously difficult to arrive at accurate figures to show the economic damage done by corruption, there can be no doubt that it is a serious problem in Zambia. And it is because of this that the President of our Republic, Michael Sata, the leadership of our religious institutions and other leaders are increasingly voicing out against corruption.

In the private sector, there is widespread tax-evasion and other forms of dishonesty which deprive the state - and thereby the nation - of much needed resources, not to mention those types of corrupt behaviour, harmful business practices, insider training and so on and so forth which disadvantage others in the private sector.

Similarly in the public sector, examples of corruption abound, ranging from nepotism to bribery and downright theft of state property. In other cases, officials fail to follow the correct procedures, resulting in losses of substantial amounts of public funds. And, even though it is not strictly speaking a question of corruption, there is a matter of a civil service which appears, in some areas at least, to be poorly managed and over-staffed. Such a civil service becomes a waste of resources and a drain on the economy, rather than an economic asset.

It is not enough to say that corruption as a moral evil is rooted in the heart of human beings. When corruption is generalised at various social levels, we have to look for the structures that are causing it - the use of privileged offices of authority and public service in order to achieve one's financial ambitions; lack of transparency and accountability at higher levels is an implicit invitation to all citizens to repeat the same lack of transparency and accountability at lower levels; insufficient basic salaries and the continual rise in the cost of living tempt people to employ corrupt means in order for them and their families to survive.

It is good and proper that those who work hard, who develop their abilities and who take on responsibility should be rewarded for their efforts. And it is fitting that incentives should be provided to encourage people to do these things. However, a balance must be achieved in which material values such as wealth, status and power do not become the dominant or sole motivation. If this happens, more important values such as common good and solidarity tend to be neglected or ignored altogether.

There are numerous examples of this in our country today. Much has been said about "eating" for those in power or close to power. This is being justified as being necessary to reward people for their personal sacrifices. This in itself is an indication that the value of service to the nation is perceived as secondary to the material value of wealth, of benefits. The message that seems to be sent is that public life is an opportunity for self-enrichment, rather than an opportunity to serve others.

Materialism in public life stems, in large part, from the overtly materialist nature of the private sector. Here, success is measured largely in terms of a person's wealth or influence, of the number of possessions they have accumulated, of what they earn and own. People are encouraged to aspire to greater material wealth, to 'get ahead' of others, to compete, sometimes ruthlessly, for a bigger share of what is available. There is little sense of duty.

It must also be pointed out that materialism is not confined to the rich. Even the relatively poor can allow materialist values to dominate their lives. Where this happens, whether for rich or for poor, the economy becomes nothing more than an arena of competition, where the most shrewd, the luckiest or the toughest prosper. In the absence of the truly human values, the weak, the ill-equipped or the unlucky fall by the wayside.

Once again, it is a question of balance. It is entirely legitimate to strive to increase one's wealth and to enjoy the fruits of one's labour, but this must happen in harmony with one's social responsibilities. Material values should be accorded their proper place in relation to social, spiritual and moral values. Where this balance is disturbed, as it is in our economy, injustice is the inevitable result.

Even when the trap of materialism is avoided, and human values are recognised and maintained, the temptation of excessive consumption is always present. Each one of us must discern for ourselves what our real needs are, how much of this world's goods we really require in order to live a fulfilling and dignified life? As long as we can meet our needs, we should be content, given that there are almost always others whose needs are not being met. This is not to say, however, that we should reject all comforts, all the pleasures that can be derived from what God has given us on earth; but simply that we must always bear in mind the needs of others, especially where, as in Zambia, millions of our brothers and sisters lack the barest necessities.

Unfortunately, the dominant ethic in our country today appears to be one of consumerism, a preoccupation with acquisition of money and goods even to the point where it becomes impossible actually to use them, and satisfaction is derived merely from having them. This is nothing less than a form of idolatry. It is all the more harmful in that it occurs at the expense of others. Since there is a limited amount of wealth available, the greed of one is directly linked to the deprivation of another. This insatiable appetite for money, wealth, inevitably leads to corruption and other abuses. It is for this reason that those who seek leadership, politically, traditionally, religiously and otherwise, should first free themselves from selfishness, greed and vanity. It is for this reason that corruption should be seen as a sin, an evil that has to be fought politically, traditionally, religiously and

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