By Kwazi Dlamini

As part of its effort to fight corruption in Africa, the African Union (AU) hosted the Civil Society Forum III Combating Corruption conference at the Pan African Parliament  in July. With corruption still hindering development in many African countries, the AU has declared 2018 the year of combating corruption in Africa.

The main goal of the forum was to determine the potential of greater alliance building and broader networking by civil society organisations (CSOs), existing AU organs and journalists in order to register stronger results that are feasible and sustainable in combating corruption on the continent.

Chairperson of the AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), Hon. Mairom Begote, noted the lack of regulatory institutions, a situation which leads to illicit financial flows. He said Africa has lost approximately one trillion US dollars in illicit financial flows in the last 50 years .

The board was established with a mandate from the AU to combat corruption in Africa,

“Despite the plethora of efforts deployed to combat corruption, the scourge remains an endemic problem in most countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Anti-corruption policies that have been promulgated have not been adequately operationalised,” said Begote. He also urged the AU to create an enabling environment that will enable CSOs and media to hold governments accountable.

Begote added that the AUABC lacks sufficient support from AU member states and institutions and this impedes the ability of the institution to promote anti-corruption efforts. In addition, at continental level anti-corruption agencies continue to operate with limited resources, mandates, budget and independency. He also said that governments need to work closer with CSOs to ensure that state policies are implemented at the local level; however, he saw difficulties with this strategy as the relationship between governments and CSOs is often strained, while CSOs lack the necessary government support needed to implement their anti-corruption projects at the local level.

Corruption fighting heroes

Besides the AUABC chairperson the conference hosted other well-respected public servants associated with fighting corruption in Africa, notably South Africa’s former public protector Thuli Madonsela, Corruption Watch’s executive director David Lewis, Samuel Kimeu from Transparency International, and others from all over Africa.

Madonsela played a big role in exposing the phenomenon that came to be known as state capture, in which the notorious Gupta family interfered in appointing government ministers and influenced government dealings in South Africa under the tenure of former president Jacob Zuma. Madonsela wrote the scathing report  State Of Capture that contributed significantly to the fall of the former state president.

Lewis described Madonsela as a woman who not only kept to her mandate but who also fought courageously for the people and has continued to be a pillar of strength. Her fearless stance on corruption in South Africa earned her the first African Anti-Corruption Crusader Award – given to her at the conference “for her extraordinary efforts to elevate the demand for public accountability and the advancement of social justice not only for South Africa but for Africa as a whole, speaking truth to power, the principles of accountability and transparency.”

Accepting the award, Madonsela hailed her team during her tenure as public protector, saying: “I may be the one who shows my face and accepts and takes all the credit, but there are some unsung heroes who worked with me at the Public Protector’s office, who dedicated their time, who took the risks to fight injustice. There were times where I also got afraid as I was receiving death threats but it was them who kept me strong. I am grateful that the work we do gets recognition.”

Anti-corruption task team

The forum delegated a task team to review the state of combating corruption at regional and continental levels, drawing on best practises adopted by AU member states in fighting corruption, with the aim of understanding the political dynamics that contribute to this effort.

The role of the task team is also to sensitise CSOs and parliamentarians about the latest progress at AU level in formulating policies for battling corruption, and to isolate opportunities to influence the process.

The team will also share best practices of civil society in accountability issues by looking at the best performing anti-corruption agencies in different countries to draw influence from them for other agencies of the same nature.