All too often, when the International Anti-Corruption Court is mentioned as a possible way forward, specious arguments are raised, often by those who are themselves compromised by corruption.
Are the leaders of the world hearing the people of the world?
A global governance survey conducted in 2023 has produced some revealing data. Worldwide, people are worried about the trajectory of governance and leadership given the war in Ukraine, the coups in Africa and the discord on every continent except Antarctica.
The purpose of this article is to focus on the results of the survey as they pertain to the attitude of people around the world, and particularly in Africa, as regards the need for effective ways to counter the grand corruption that is endemic at this time, particularly as it impacts on developing countries.
We should disclose our interest in the subject matter of the survey: we are both directors of Integrity Initiatives International or III, an international NGO registered in the US which advocates the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC).
The data is clear. In Part V of the executive summary of the report, the following appears:
The Rule of Law and Inclusive International Governance: Readiness for Bold Measures
“Most respondents favour the creation of an international anti-corruption court for cases which national tribunals are unable to handle.
- Substantial majorities view the United Nations and Group of 20 (G20) favourably.
- Sentiment broadly favours making the Security Council more inclusive by adding Brazil, India, and South Africa as permanent members and limiting permanent members’ use of the veto.
- Better connecting international bodies, through G20/General Assembly economic summits and an international UN parliamentary network, gets a favourable reception.”
Drilling down to the detail in the report, one finds the following conclusions on page 39:
“Most respondents favour the creation of an international anti-corruption court for cases which national tribunals cannot handle. All told, 70% of those polled across the G7 and BRICS countries agree with the notion that an international court should be established to deal with corruption cases that national governments do not take on. Only 15% are opposed.
“A substantial majority is in favour in all 12 countries polled. The highest proportions are found among the BRICS, where corruption is a huge issue: 87% in China, 81% in South Africa, 80% in Brazil, and 74% in India. In the European members of the G7, the percentage is also 70% or more. The least support is found in the U.S. (61%), Japan (57%), and Russia, though even there a 53% majority is in favour. Opposition is minimal, ranging from a low of 11% in the U.K. and China to a maximum of 23% (ironically, in both the U.S. and Russia).”
While South Africa was the only African country directly involved in the survey, its high approval rating for an IACC suggests that the majority of people in Africa support its establishment. This conclusion can also be gleaned or inferred from the minimal opposition worldwide to the notion of setting up an IACC.
All the BRICS countries were polled, and the majority in all five countries favour the IACC’s establishment.
These facts bring us to the question under discussion: are the leaders of the world hearing the people of the world? Given the low (but growing) governmental approval of the IACC idea, it would seem to us that the answer to this question is, “No”.
There are no doubt many reasons for the tepid attitude of leaders.
Some are compromised by their own corrupt dealings, some feel beholden to the corrupt in their particular orbit and some are hesitant to upset the order of things that brought them to power.
Kleptocrats vs democrats
Experience teaches that there are only two basic categories of politicians: those who have performed and continue to perform on a genuinely democratic mandate to serve the people who elected them, and those who enter politics to exercise their own greed.
At present the politicians who are servants of the people appear to be outnumbered by the kleptocrats. All too often, when the IACC is mentioned as a possible way forward, specious arguments about national sovereignty and the supposed ability of states to clean up their own corrupt backyards are raised. Frequently, those raising these arguments are compromised, in one or another way, by corruption.
The notion of democracy posits government of the people, by the people and for the people.
All too frequently, political systems are abused by the power-hungry and governments fall into the ways of grand corruption, kleptocracy and State Capture – all of which tend to lead to the failure of states, instability, coups, wars and worse.
It is up to the people of the world to take charge of their politicians.
This strategy has succeeded in the past and can be used again in the future. It is at a grassroots level that change can emerge, if active and participative citizens organise themselves and stand up against abuse from the corrupt.
This month of August, 40 years ago, the United Democratic Front, a mass movement and not a political party, organised to bring down apartheid in South Africa. Its aims were a non-racial democratic order in which all forms of oppression and exploitation were ended.
Colin Coleman, then a student activist and now a distinguished fellow at Insead, writing in the Sunday Times on 30 July 2023, expresses the view that the aims of the UDF have not been achieved.
He remarks that after Jacob Zuma rose to power, there “crystallised a disturbing series of reversals of gains, leading to State Capture and corruption, the repurposing of the state for accumulation and a steep decline in our economic fortunes from which we are yet to recover”.
His theme is that to save our democracy, we must grow our economy in SA. What he misses is that growth is stunted when looting occurs with impunity and no steps are taken timeously to rake back loot from the denizens of State Capture, kleptocracy and grand corruption.
In these circumstances, the investment in economic growth is scared away by the fear of falling foul of looters.
All of 81% of his fellow South Africans have worked out that an IACC could do their country a power of good. There is a direct link between the decline of the economy and the rise of corrupt activities. At present, South Africa does not have the wherewithal to counter serious corruption.
In these circumstances, the introduction of an IACC would be a blessing to the people of SA and Africa. It would be a major setback to those involved in the corruption that has retarded progress toward realising the goals of our democratic constitutions.
Former president Thabo Mbeki is one who foresaw that the Zuma presidency could lead to the failure of SA as a state.
As his biographer Mark Gevisser put it in 2007, “A dream shattered, irrevocably, as South Africa turns into yet another post-colonial kleptocracy; another ‘footprint of despair’ in the path of destruction away from the promises of uhuru.”
Writing in the same edition of the Sunday Times as Coleman, Mbeki points out that “it is perfectly obvious that the more we democratise our continent, the greater will be our possibility successfully to address such challenges as continental integration, development, peace and others.”
These words can be construed as a challenge by an elder statesman to the people of Africa to take charge of their politicians by “democratising” in a way that promotes peace that is secure, progress that is sustainable and prosperity that is shared.
It is for the people of Africa to rise up against kleptocrats in the same way as the UDF rose up against apartheid.
The assertion by the people of democratic values, fealty to the rule of law and enjoyment of guaranteed human rights is the best way to see off the kleptocrats who are ruining the future of “continental integration (the United States of Africa), development ( the attraction of investments in Africa), peace (no more wars, no more coups) and others,” as the former president put it.
A good start is made by voting for politicians whose views on the establishment of an IACC accord with those of the people.
Putting together alliances like the UDF to counter corruption, enhance economic opportunities and break the cycle of looting of public coffers that is a scourge in Africa and around the world is within the gift of ordinary people who recognise the need for activism and act on that need. DM
Judge Richard Goldstone was a member of the first Constitutional Court in South Africa, is vice chair of Integrity Initiatives International (III) and a trustee of Accountability Now.
Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now and of III.