BAROTSE CHANGE: Reflections on the leaven of Zambian Corruption Ecosystem! – Part 2

25 August 2017
Author  Lindunda Wamunyima, Barotseland Post

Unboundedly, the venomous Zambian corruption ecosystem has had its sting on Barotseland with the magnitude of the economic paralysis and stagnation we see today. Therefore, it is just fitting for us to ask the following question and address it as it concerns Barotseland:

What made corruption a powerful obstacle to sustainable economic development of “Zambia” and Barotseland?

1. SABOTAGING NATIONAL REVENUE

Corruption sabotaged government revenue and, therefore, undermined or limited the ability of the government to invest meaningfully in productivity-enhancing areas and activities. Since the scourge of corruption has been endemic in Zambia, there has been a delicate tension between the GRZ in its role as tax collector and the business community and individuals as tax payers. The system’s confidence has been wanting seriously such that taxpayers have been harbouring feelings of betrayal that no good chance existed for them to really see a future payoff, such as improvements in the country’s infrastructure, better schools and a better-trained and healthier workforce. The corruption ecosystem sabotaged this implicit bond. Accordingly, Zambian and Barotseland taxpayers felt justified in finding creative ways to avoid paying taxes or, worse, became bribers themselves.

To the extent that corruption undermines revenue, it adversely affects government efforts to reduce poverty. This is because the money that leaks out of the national budget because of corruption is not available to lighten the burden and plight of the poor. This same vice also undermines the intent of foreign aid as an important element of the fight against global poverty when taxpayers in the developed countries are asked to donate aid only to support the lavish lifestyles of the kleptocrats in corrupt developing Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland!

2. SILENT TAX AVERSION COMPETITOR

There is solid empirical evidence that the higher the level of corruption in a country the larger the share of its economic activity that will go underground beyond the reach of the tax authorities. This has been another strong feature in the Zambian corruption ecosystem our country has been an accomplice. Barotseland cannot afford to have such a mal-economic ecosystem. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that corruption also undermines foreign direct investment (FDI) since it acts in ways that are indistinguishable from a tax. In effect, cetris paribus (other things being equal), investors will always prefer to establish themselves in less corrupt countries.

3. DISTORTED ECONOMIC DISTRIBUTIONAL IMPLICATIONS

Experience shows that the Zambian corruption ecosystem actually contributed to worsening income distribution in that by lowering economic growth, perceptibly pushed up income inequality between the upper and lower classes. It also distorted the tax system because the wealthy and powerful have been able to use their connections to make sure that the tax system worked in their favour. It led to inefficient targeting of social programs, many of which acquired regressive features, with benefits disproportionately allocated to the higher income brackets coupled with numerous subsidies, allowances and other heft benefits to government officials and partisans. Ultimately, most of our people in Barotseland have been vagabonds living as economic refugees in their own country! So, tolerated corruption ecosystem in RBG governance dispensation will only serve to exacerbate the social ills we have condemned by the 2012 BAREXIT and remedying through the ongoing Barotse Change crusade systems.

4. DISTORTION OF PUBLIC INVESTMENT PROJECTS DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

Large capital projects provide tempting opportunities for corruption. When governments undertake projects of a larger scope or complexity than warranted by the needs of the country then Public investment will thus be higher. The world, Zambia and Barotseland in particular is littered with white elephant projects, often built with external credits, and representing a heavy burden on meagre Central Government budgets mostly for political expediency. The Mongu – Kalabo road and King Lewanika University are such examples of corruption projects. In the context of scarce resources, GRZ usually found it necessary to cut spending elsewhere, sometimes in socially vital areas, or in operations and maintenance of Barotseland. Plausibly, corruption tended to reduce expenditure on social vital areas because these are areas where it was more difficult to collect bribes. However, service provider absenteeism in the educational and health sectors became rife and is itself a considered form of quiet or silent corruption, as civil servants try to make ends meet from extra income generating activities. This is not good for a new country Barotseland indeed.

5. UNDERMINED PRIVATE-SECTOR INNOVATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Corruption discourages private-sector innovation and development, and encourages inefficiency. This is because budding entrepreneurs with bright ideas will be intimidated by the bureaucratic obstacles, financial costs and psychological burdens of starting new business ventures and will either opt for taking their ideas to some other less corrupt country or, more likely, desist altogether. This is the reason behind the “Barotseland’s Skills Flight or Brain Drain syndrome” as Barotseland nationals tried to comply with the Zambian corruption ecosystem for survival! In either case, economic growth of Barotseland was adversely affected. The high incidence of corruption meant an additional financial burden on businesses, thereby undermining the Barotseland Entrepreneurship Hub's local and international competitiveness. Unlike a tax, which is known and predictable and can be built into the cost structure of the enterprise in an orderly fashion, bribes are unpredictable and only complicated cost control, while reducing profits and undermining the efficiency of those who paid them to stay in business. This too is something that our new country cannot entertain and in serious need of addressing by RBG in impelling our national core business.

6. UNCERTAINTY CREATION

Wherever corruption exists it tends to create uncertainty. This explains why the Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP regime had to impose a state of emergency for over 25 years, just in fear of the corrupt deals done against BA’ 64 and Barotseland. There are no enforceable property rights emanating from a transaction involving bribery. The firm that obtains a concession from a bureaucrat as a result of bribery cannot know with certainty how long the benefit will last. The terms of the “contract” may have to be constantly renegotiated to extend the life of the benefit or to prevent its collapse. Indeed, the briber, having flouted the law, may fall prey to extortion from which it may prove difficult to extricate himself. In an uncertain environment with insecure property rights, the firm will be less willing to invest and to plan for the longer-term. A short-term focus to maximize short-term profits will be the optimal strategy, even if this leads to lost dignity in public life, perpetrated suppression of Barotseland, deforestation or the rapid exhaustion of resources like fish, game, timber and beef, to mention just a few.

This uncertainty in Barotseland has partly been responsible for the perversion in the sorts of incentives that have been prompting individual Barotzis to want to seek public office; e.g. partisanship and political campaigns as springboards. When corruption is rife, politicians will want to remain in office as long as possible, not because they are even remotely serving the public good, but merely because they will not want to yield to others the economic benefits of high office. Where long stays in office are no longer an option, then the new government will want to steal as much as possible as quickly as possible, given a relatively short window of opportunity. While this has been a prominent Zambian culture politically it should be a declared taboo mwa Bulozi both in the Monarchy and civil classes.

7. MISAPPROPRIATION OF HUMAN RESOURCE

Corruption contributes to a misallocation of human resources – many Barotzis suffered displacements, redeployments and supplantings in effect, in entrenching the Zambian corruption ecosystem. To sustain a system of corruption, officials and those who pay them will have to invest time and effort in the development of certain skills, nurture certain relationships, and build up a range of supporting institutions and opaque systems, such as off-the-books transactions, secret bank accounts, and the like. Surveys have shown that the greater the incidence of corruption in a country, the greater the share of time that management has to allocate to dealing with ensuring compliance with regulations, avoiding penalties, and dealing with the bribery system that underpins them, activities that draw attention and resources away from production, strategic planning, and so on. What a waste it has been!

8. CATALYTIC AGENT FOR OTHER FORMS OF CRIME

Bribery and corruption lead to other forms of crime. Because corruption breeds corruption, it tends soon enough to lead to the creation of mafias and organized criminal groups who use their financial power and ‘prowess’ to infiltrate legal businesses, to intimidate, to create protection rackets and a climate of fear and uncertainty. Given the weak institutions of “Zambia”, the police became overwhelmed, reducing the probability that real criminals are caught. When caught, this in turn, encouraged more people to become corrupt, further impairing the efficiency of law enforcement, a vicious cycle that retrogressively affected the investment climate and undermined economic growth especially in Barotseland, in deadly ways. In many countries, as corruption gives rise to mafias and organized crime, the police and other organs of the state may themselves become criminalized. By then, businesses will not only have to deal with corruption-ridden bureaucracies, but they will also be vulnerable to attacks from competitors who will pay the police or tax authorities to harass and intimidate. Certainly this should not be encouraged in Barotseland like it has happened in our neighbourhood of Zambia.

Eventually, as if this is not enough, when a state wants to preserve its power corrupt ecosystem makes it opt for warfare, engulfing the country in a cycle of violence, this way becoming a security threat for both itself and the whole international community. This is because most such corrupt environments become incubators and hotbeds of terrorism, the narcotics trade, money laundering, human trafficking, and other global crimes this way raising issues far beyond corruption itself.

9. DESTABILISER OF ORGANISED SOCIETY

There is really no limit to the extent to which corruption once it is unleashed can undermine the stability of the state and organized society. Tax superintendents will extort businesses; the police will kidnap innocents and demand ransom; the Member of Parliament will demand payoffs to make himself available for meetings; aid money will disappear into the private offshore bank accounts of senior government officials; the head of state will demand that particular taxes be credited directly to his personal account. Investment will come to a standstill, or worse, capital flight will lead to disinvestment. If Barotseland allows corruption to become intertwined with domestic politics, separate centres of power will emerge to rival the power of the state. At that point, the chances that the government will actually be able to do anything to control corruption will disappear and the state will mutate into a kleptocracy. This is one evil Barotzis have to extirpate at all cost from the RBG inception, having come out of Zambian disorientation or chaos.

10. DIMINISHING OF THE LEGITIMACY OF THE STATE AND NATION

Since corruption is a serious betrayal of trust, it diminishes the dignity and legitimacy of the state and moral stature of the bureaucracy in the eyes of the population nationally and internationally. While efforts will be made to veil such corrupt transactions in secrecy, particularly when the opportunities for bribery are linked to some government-inspired initiative, the relevant details will leak out and will tarnish the reputation of the government, thereby damaging its credibility and limiting its ability to become a constructive agent of positive Barotse Change, post-complete Independence. A corrupt Royal Barotseland Government will have a tougher time being credible enforcers of contracts and protectors of property rights ‘mwa hae’.

CONCLUSION

Corruption is a destroyer of human dignity and prosperity which should be abhorred at all costs in new Barotseland. Among other reasons this is due to the fact that our new country Barotseland deserves her best of human and non-human resources, free of corruption, as she develops from her political and economic ruins. Barotse Change way forward therefore, demands that we seriously acquaint ourselves, each one, with the causes of corruption because, to start with, you cannot fight an enemy you do not know! Leaving behind Zambianism and taking upon ourselves a PURELY BAROTZISH MINDSET includes doing away with all forms of corruption observed and experienced in Zambia. This will be one additional strong reason, besides the legal preserves, to justify our BAREXIT 2012 and complete disengagement with Northern Rhodesia.

The backdrop of all this is that corruption factors are always contextual, rooted in a country's policies, bureaucratic traditions, political development, and social history – corruption has been very prevalent in our social history and historic ‘Zambian’ environment. That is why as Barotseland we must take all necessary measures now to include anti-corruption measures in our BAROTSE CHANGE CRUSADE and in the hereinafter.

ADMIRING THE WORK OF MAGUFULI THE CURRENT PRESIDENT OF TANZANIA WE ALSO NEED A SERIOUS “MAGUFICATION” OF BAROTSELAND FROM THE LEAVEN OF ZAMBIAN CORRUPTION ECOSYSTEM, AS A WAY FORWARD. So, in New Barotseland, corruption should be starved by all determined citizens, the able leadership, wiling and available institutions that are strongly anti-corruption.

See Part 01 here.

TUKONGOTE, WA MWANA’ NONGOLO!

  • Social network:

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT

The Barotseland Post, also known as The Barotsepost, is an online media platform, for now, that is dedicated to reporting stories and news around Barotseland and beyond, giving exclusive coverage and access to the people and the nation of Barotseland to fully express themselves in their aspirations for self- determination.