By Fred M’membe President of the Socialist Party
It’s not possible for Mr Hakainde Hichilema to fight corruption in an efficient, effective and orderly manner because he is highly conflicted.
Mr Hichilema has many business interests through all sorts of fronts and associates that he has not disclosed. And he is continually getting into new ones with all sorts of associates and fronts. These businesses benefit from government business and fiscal policies presided over by Mr Hichilema himself. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to escape corruption if one is so deeply conflicted. This is not a recipe for governing well. This is a recipe for bad governance. It is actually a recipe for corruption.
Instead of protecting the business interests of the people he was elected to serve, Mr Hichilema is protecting his own personal business interests and those of his associates. He is competing with the same businessmen he was elected to help, promote and develop. He is actually in a predatory position.
Let’s not deceive ourselves or allow ourselves to be deceived, there’s no genuine or serious corruption fight Mr Hichilema can engage in. What we are seeing is simply a mock engagement. If he is serious about fighting corruption let him start with the corrupt fertiliser deal involving his associate Jangulo and his Alpha Commodities! Those who really and truly want to fight corruption should start with themselves, their party leaders, cadres and members before touching their opponents.
We can learn something from the way the Chinese are fighting corruption. A decade ago, in his speech at the 18th CPC National Congress, outgoing Secretary General Hu Jintao mentioned the word “corruption” several times. “If we fail to handle this issue well,” he warned, “it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.” Xi Jinping’s first task after taking over as general secretary of the CPC was to tackle this issue. In his inaugural speech as the party head in 2013, Xi said he was committed to “the fighting of tigers and flies at the same time,” referring to the corruption that had spread from the high echelons down to the grassroots level within the party and the government. The party launched “eight-point” rules for its members in December 2012, to limit practices such as inconsequential meetings and extravagant receptions for official visits, and advocated “diligence and thrift.”
Meanwhile, a year after the launch of the “mass line campaign” by Xi’s administration in June 2013, official meetings were reduced by 25 per cent in comparison to the period before the campaign, 160,000 “phantom staff” were removed from the government payroll, and 2,580 “unnecessary” official building projects were stopped. Over the past decade, from November 2012 to April 2022, nearly 4.4 million cases involving 4.7 million officials were investigated in the fight against corruption. Party members have been investigated. In the first half of this year alone, 24 senior officials were investigated for corruption, and former ministers, provincial governors, and presidents of the biggest state-owned banks have been expelled from the party and given harsh sentences, including life imprisonment.
Hu Jintao’s comments and Xi Jinping’s actions reflected concerns that during the period of high growth after 1978, CPC members grew increasingly detached from the people. During the first months of his presidency, Xi launched the “mass line campaign” to bring the party closer to the grassroots. As part of the “targeted poverty alleviation” campaign launched in 2014, 800,000 party cadres were sent to survey and visit 128,000 villages as part of this project. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China successfully eradicated extreme poverty, contributing to 76 per cent of the global reduction in poverty till October 2015.
Beyond the party’s self-correction, Xi’s strong words and actions against the corrupt “flies and tigers” contributed to the Chinese people’s confidence in the government. According to a 2020 research paper by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the overall satisfaction with the government’s performance was 93.1 per cent in 2016, seeing the most significant growth in the more underdeveloped regions in the countryside. This rise of confidence in rural areas resulted from increased social services, trust in local officials, and the campaign against poverty.
This is how to fight corruption. But this approach is only possible if the key leadership is not conflicted or outrightly corrupt itself.