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This week’s write-up examines the relationships of three contemporary currents of global human dynamics, namely; democracy, corruption and globalisation. The interest in their study arises from the fact that they are assumed to be the major factors which could make or break attempts to bringing greater prosperity and happiness to the greatest number of human beings.

As pointers for our discussion, let us take the Warsaw Community of Democracies Conference of June 2000, for democracy;   The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions of May 1997, which entered into force in February 2000, for corruption; and, The WTO Seattle Conference of November 1999, for globalisation.

Of course, these events were not initial points of departure for launching the ideas under consideration.  Without extending it to pre-history, we could trace the Warsaw Democracy Conference to the Helsinki Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe of 1977 which, one could argue, began the erosion of the Soviet regime when the latter acquiesced to let some Western ideas of democracy go unpunished within its domains.

‘the battle in Seattle’
For fighting corruption in recent times, the passing of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 was a ground-breaking event which gave an international dimension to the idea. For globalisation, WTO can be directly traced back to GATT.  But the popular challenge of ‘the battle in Seattle’ to WTO negotiations to develop legal and political norms for globalisation, which had in fact long overflowed the confines of traditional nation-state sovereignties, was a watershed.  It brought globalisation to public consciousness on par with democracy and corruption.

The British and French democracies have evolved from authoritarian regimes which had inculcated into the people the idea that the authorities were entitled to certain perks and that how they spent certain funds was none of the peoples’ business.  But this changed after the full process of democratisation

factors in the context of our time

The pointers I have chosen circumscribe the definition of the factors under consideration. But they put those factors in the context of our time and make some of their incongruences more apparent. The Warsaw Conference’s final communiqué does not ponder the Periclesian and Rousseauan democracies or the thoughts of the founding fathers of the American Republic. It is an innocuous document which disparate ‘democracies’ such as Algeria, Kuwait, Indonesia or Papua New Guinea could sign. Many countries that have ratified the OECD anti-corruption convention have long permitted their businesses to record bribes to foreign public officials as tax deductions, and are still finding ways to do so.

The member-states of WTO, even if they did not have anarchists, environmentalists, human rights supporters and trade-unionists rioting outside their conference room, have conflicting interests.  And when the quirks of democracy, corruption and globalisation intertwine, there are changes from the critical to the hypocritical. Instead of a long convoluted discourse, let us begin by a rather simple case in our own backyard:

The Kingdom of Eswatini joined the world Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995, and, by association, aligned ourselves with the international dictates of the anti-corruption conventions and domesticated the anti-corruption laws in 1998 and established an anti-corruption Commission in 2006. A body supposed to be independent but unfortunately far from it operationally as it is captured.
Trade organisations and other global organisations such as WTO, OECD ACP-EU and AGOA, in these organisations, anti-corruption, democracy, respect for human rights, respect for the rule of law and pluralism form some of the benchmarks required from the member states. As a country we have a duty to clean up our act.

a core for corruption
Let us not beat around the bush. We can identify a core for corruption. The magistrate who because of nepotism or bribe overlooks a rule which is effectively corresponding to social needs is corrupt and weakens the social structure.  We said trustworthiness might be a factor. But how do we define trustworthiness?  Do we trust because the person has solid credentials and is an upright member of our society, or because he is a member of our club, party, tribe or family?  When an administrator lets someone charge the government more than the reasonable market rate because of acquaintance, friendship or ulterior benefits we get squarely into the domain of corruption.

Corruption is not only bribing and stealing from public funds.  It is also favouring private interests to the detriment of public welfare, using the official public position of authority for gaining private power. It is used by those who are in positions of authority to amass wealth and it is sometimes more and sometimes less tolerated in different political cultures. And, depending on how it is defined, it may well be built into the fabric of a political culture. Corruption is considered undesirable because it causes inefficient distribution of wealth at the expense of the common good and social development.

However, I must say without fear that legislatively the 10th Parliament of the Kingdom of Eswatini has made some strides particularly in the passing of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill, repeal of the 1963 Public Order Act, enactment of the Bill of the People living with disabilities,, the election of four regional women, the passing of the Domestic Workers Bill, The Intellectual Properties Bill, The Copyrights Bill, The Patents Bill, The Police Bill, The Correctional Services Bill and several international treaties including SADC treaties, EPAS, COMESA and addressed the AGOA benchmarks, some agriculture, Tourism and environment relevant Bills, this is commendable.

fight against corruption

It would be unfair not to mention the excellent oversight role and fight against corruption that Parliament exercised through the PAC organ under the leadership of Hon. Thuli Dladla, and through select committees in over sighting the executive, may God bless the team for their national service to the people of the Kingdom. Challenges were there but members soldiered on.
Just as the taste of the pudding is in the eating, as a country we need to up our game in compliance since it is practice and easy access of the rights by the citizens that determines whether the country is compliant with all international socio-economic, trade and development agreements that partners use as a score-card to benchmark compliance.

The downside still remains on the freedom of expression as the public broadcaster remains inaccessible to the general public including elected politicians of the Kingdom and freedom of association and certainly failing successfully on service delivery for basic needs and unattended gravel roads and water in both the rural and peri-urban settings. However, since there is nothing as constant as change, as an optimist, change is inevitable.

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