Time to make countering kleptocracy a priority


Credit: NY Times

Following the ousting of Pravin Gordhan as South Africa’s finance minister in the recent cabinet reshuffle and the downgrade by ratings agencies, fears that South Africa under President Jacob Zuma has embarked down a road which leads to Zimbabwe-style authoritarian kleptocracy have gained considerable ground, analyst Roger Southall notes.

South Africa’s National Treasury has tried to act as a barrier to corruption by insisting on proper oversight and accountability, notes James Hamill, a lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester. The rapid deterioration in Zuma’s relationship with Gordhan reflected a clash between two fundamentally incompatible approaches to governance: a kleptocracy in which the looting of the state is paramount versus a rational, technocratic government, he writes for World Politics Review.

The U.S. should make countering kleptocracy an interagency priority as part of its security platform, and should reinvigorate the administrative and legislative tools it already has at its disposal, according to John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, and Allen Grane, Research Associate, Africa Policy Studies.

The National Security Council should establish an interagency working group to make full use of the U.S. anticorruption policies and procedures that are already in place to pursue country-specific strategies in Nigeria and South Africa, they write for the Council on Foreign Relations:

First, the working group should ensure that an anticorruption strategy is shared by the whole government, including the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Such an approach should use anticorruption tools such as the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which provide the U.S. executive and judicial branches jurisdiction over illicit money that passes through the U.S. financial system, no matter its origin, destination, or beneficiaries.

The working group should collaborate closely with the Buhari administration as it seeks to repatriate stolen funds that are sheltered abroad. In South Africa, the working group should make its expertise on prosecuting money laundering and other white collar crimes in a sophisticated financial environment available to anticorruption NGOs, the courts, and members of parliament. The working group should ensure that U.S. efforts in the two countries are coordinated but reflect the important national differences; a one-size-fits-all approach should be avoided.


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