CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Dudu Msomi voices@ city­press. co. za

Cor­rup­tion is the use of an of­fi­cial po­si­tion for the pur­poses of per­sonal en­rich­ment and un­law­ful gain. Cor­rup­tion ex­ists on a spec­trum, from dis­hon­est be­hav­iour and giv­ing or ac­cept­ing bribes and in­ap­pro­pri­ate gifts to un­der-the-ta­ble trans­ac­tions.

The lat­est cor­rup­tion scan­dal to rock the world is the one fu­elled by the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Fifa’s award­ing of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Peo­ple usu­ally view be­hav­iour as cor­rupt when they be­lieve there is un­fair­ness or feel con­straint in con­duct­ing busi­ness or im­prov­ing their qual­ity of life be­cause of public of­fi­cials act­ing in their own best in­ter­ests or for the ben­e­fit of a few in­ter­est groups.

One can only won­der how the scourge of cor­rup­tion might be elim­i­nated, as its cost af­fects both de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in vary­ing de­grees.

Poorer coun­tries may be per­ceived as more cor­rupt or feel the brunt of de­ci­sions to al­lo­cate public re­sources dis­torted by money, power, ac­cess or con­nec­tions more se­verely be­cause funds are di­verted from achiev­ing de­vel­op­men­tal goals, thus pro­long­ing the suf­fer­ing of cit­i­zens. But let us not be mis­taken. Cor­rup­tion ex­ists ev­ery­where.

Un­til some of the fol­low­ing con­di­tions change, we will not win the war against it.


Our abil­ity to in­flu­ence can be boosted by the po­si­tion we hold and the power con­ferred by that po­si­tion. Lead­er­ship the­o­ries speak about the skills peo­ple can ac­quire to in­flu­ence with­out a for­mal ti­tle. The re­al­ity is the power of a po­si­tion con­fers author­ity that can re­sult in biased ac­tions and be­hav­iour. Power re­mains one of the most valu­able cur­ren­cies to at­tract cor­rup­tive in­ten­tions be­cause of the in­her­ent op­por­tu­nity to dish out favours at a price. Why else would in­di­vid­u­als hang on to po­si­tions like a dog with a bone?

Res­ig­na­tions – when they do hap­pen – are ac­com­pa­nied by in­cred­i­ble golden hand­shakes but re­main an op­tion few of­fi­cials vol­un­tar­ily take. Your name alone may not get you into the golden cir­cle, but hold­ing a cer­tain po­si­tion does come with a seat at par­tic­u­lar ta­bles, ac­cess to net­works that one would oth­er­wise not have been privy to and ex­po­sure to crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion to ben­e­fit from op­por­tu­ni­ties. With more than 7 bil­lion peo­ple in the world, there is com­pe­ti­tion to stand out. Power af­fords one the abil­ity to break through the clut­ter.


Just as crime is not only com­mit­ted by those who are fi­nan­cially in need, so too are cor­rup­tive prac­tices not con­fined to the poor or gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials alone.

Greed is a pow­er­ful force and the cause of many down­falls. It is driven by a sense of de­pri­va­tion and feel­ings of in­ter­nal in­ad­e­quacy that ig­nite a self­ish de­sire to have more than what one needs or de­serves. When one chooses the path of ac­cu­mu­lat­ing as much wealth as pos­si­ble with the least ef­fort, the cor­rupt route be­comes al­lur­ing.

We have be­come a so­ci­ety in which do­ing good for its own sake is per­ceived cyn­i­cally. Help­ing fel­low hu­man be­ings is con­di­tional – a fi­nan­cial or in-kind ben­e­fit must be as­sured.

There is a price to re­la­tion­ships, with man­age­ment fees be­ing charged for fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­ter­ac­tions among those who have power be­cause of po­si­tions or have prox­im­ity to those with po­si­tions that can in­flu­ence de­ci­sions in their favour.

Low risk of pun­ish­ment

Bil­lion­aire War­ren Buf­fett said: “We must con­tinue to mea­sure ev­ery act against not only what is legal, but also what we would be happy to have writ­ten about on the front page of a na­tional news­pa­per in an ar­ti­cle writ­ten by an un­friendly but in­tel­li­gent re­porter.”

I have a sneak­ing sus­pi­cion Buf­fett as­sumed in­di­vid­u­als had a con­science and bad press would serve as a de­ter­rent. But our world is one where no news is bad news, as long as you get your 15 min­utes of fame. Our ex­ter­nal trap­pings of wealth are now a barom­e­ter for suc­cess and achieve­ment. There is no merit in in­ter­ro­gat­ing how wealth is ac­cu­mu­lated, as long as it is.

The rule of law does not serve as a de­ter­rent and the lack of harsh pun­ish­ment is guar­an­teed be­cause per­sonal and his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions out­weigh cor­rup­tive be­hav­iour. This re­sults in in­con­sis­ten­cies of treat­ment and cre­ates a cul­ture of im­punity. No one wants to bite the hand that feeds them.

So in a world with th­ese pre­vail­ing con­di­tions, what is the in­cen­tive for living a cor­rup­tion-free life?

Msomi is CEO of Busara Lead­er­ship Part­ners

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