SOUTHERN AFRICA: Bishops speak out against graft

Kurunzi Afrika

safThe Catholic bishops of southern Africa have expressed concern at widespread corruption in the church and society in the region and urged everyone to work towards eradication of the vice.

The bishops said, in a pastoral letter, that, “corruption is theft from the poor. Money diverted into the pockets of corrupt people could have been spent on housing for the homeless, on medicine for the sick or for other needs. Aid should reach those it is intended for.”

The bishops referred to various statistics, which showed that almost half of the citizens in Southern Africa admit to having given a bribe, mostly to police officers and government officials.

“Corruption hurts the most vulnerable. Whenever someone pays to jump the queue for housing or for a permit, everyone else is pushed back in the queue – especially those who are defenseless: the elderly, young children, refugees, single mothers,” the clerics said.

Corruption harms the whole community, as civil servants, business people or church personnel put aside their responsibilities in pursuit of making money for themselves.

“Corruption destroys our trust. The experience of corruption leads us to become cynical about each other, to distrust the very people we regard as our leaders and as honorable people,” the bishops pointed out.

They suggested three ways to deal with the scourge. First, corruption is not the government’s problem alone; it is everyone’s problem. “We need to examine our consciences, allow ourselves to be challenged by the Gospel to conversion, and to resist the temptation to participate in corrupt actions.”

Second, anyone who experiences corruption should report it. Bribery, collusion and all other forms of corruption thrive in conditions of secrecy and concealment, and they persist because people allow them to continue.

Third, everyone should commit themselves to greater transparency and honesty at home, in the parish, at the work place and everywhere.