Voters 'unfazed' by corruption

Public concern about corruption is unlikely to result in significant changes at the ballot box this year.

01 February 2019 | Politics

Analysts believe Namibia's corruption levels will not affect voting patterns in the upcoming general election, but that Namibians will once again vote according to party loyalty.

They say this may only change once people truly feel how corruption affects their lives, especially when billions that should have gone towards health and education are looted from state coffers.

The 2018 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) gave Namibia a score of 53 out of 100, which is two points higher than in 2017.

Namibia performed significantly better than neighbouring South Africa, which scored 43 in 2017 and 2018. Botswana has the best score in the Southern African Development Community, at 61.

Angola scored 19, Zimbabwe 22, Zambia 35 and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 20.



'Not serious'

University of Namibia (Unam) political science professor Lesley Blaauw says Namibia's ranking is no surprise because the perception is that there is no significant effort to address corruption.

“We haven't seen any significant policy changes over the past few years nor have we seen any significant cases that would give the impression that we are serious about fighting corruption,” he said, adding that “we say one thing and we do the other”.

He added there is a perception that we are not making significant inroads in terms of “big” cases of corruption.

“In my view we do not really act on addressing systemic corruption, which is a much bigger issue than incidental corruption. If we address the root causes of corruption, you will see a significant increase in our rating, but currently we are not doing anything,” Blaauw says.

On the other hand, he does not think the poor corruption rating will affect voting patterns in Namibia.

He added the relationship between the fight against corruption and electoral democracy is not so significant in developing countries.

“Our primary concern in Namibia would be people that are still loyal to parties; we do not vote necessarily on issues. The issue of corruption would be a great concern in a developed country, but in a developing country it is not a big issue. When people see how it affects them, I think that is when we will see a change in the voting patterns,” he said. Economic analyst and Unam lecturer Omu Kakujaha-Matundu also believes Namibia has failed to talk the walk on corruption.

He said corruption is now sugar-coated as “irregularities” to protect some of those implicated.

He also believes the billions lost through blatant corruption have eaten a big chunk from the state's coffers and compromise economic growth.

“I am saying this now because when you see the talk - the cancellation of tenders that were awarded in an irregular fashion and the like - that is okay because we are exposing corruption but we are not hard enough on the culprits, who seem to be protected by some quarters.

“That is why we haven't seen anyone involved in these corruption cases being sent to jail. What we hear is that the tender was cancelled because it was irregular. What is irregular? That seems like the new term for corruption,” Kakujaha-Matundu said.

The 2018 CPI draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

JEMIMA BEUKES

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