- by Pokuaa Busumru-Banson in Johannesburg
(HN, April 4, 2011) - So I sit in my constitutional law class and we are engaged in deep philosophical debates about the importance of constitutional supremacy vs. parliamentary supremacy and democracy.
Further we read about the importance of seperation of power and how "power arrests power." We mull and chew on the importance of voting and majority vs. minority rights. The more I attend this class the more emotion rises up in me about the current state of Africa.
In as much as the effective implementation of democracy rests on the assumption that the majority of the population is educated, I'm realising more and more that knowledge in an African sense is power - but not necessarily one that will eradicate corruption or poverty.
I'm sure if there had to be a competition for the best written constitution, Africa would collect all the prizes. The intellectual quotient of the African is quite high and I'm almost certain that we would find a large number of genius people in our midst (whether the test is also structured in a way that incorporates all cultures is a debate for another day; maybe we should develop our own tests).
Take Zimbabwe. If we were to look at the concept of powers in a mechanical way Zimbabwe definitely has a good system. On paper, there is rule of law, and in theory, one can litigate against the state and win.
So what is the problem? I'm of the view that a different approach to corruption is needed. Zimbabwe had one of the highest literacy rates in Africa and the world. At some stage it was easier to get admission into the Ivy League colleges than institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe because the standards were so high.
The African education system produced the best professors and doctors. But, sadly, even with all of this, we still find ourselves lagging behind in almost of things - except corruption and poverty.
In Japan and South Korea not even the president is above the law. One can leave a camera on a park bench in Singapore and come back and find it. Yes there is no such thing as a perfect system but what am I trying to get at? Culture.
I can speak for my own country (Ghana) and maybe parts of South Africa because it's what I know. I speak to people who fear undergoing drivers licence tests because they don't have extra money even for a can of coke. It's ridiculous. It's now no longer the amount of money you give but the system is so used to corruption that anything small suffices.
Or on the contrary, in Africa one can no longer give a gift as an act of appreciation for the person's effort (which is African culture to begin with) without it being received as a bribe. The culture needs to be taught at schools from a young age and practiced at grass roots level.
Education can teach us that corruption is wrong but if culture says it's ok then guess what? Corruption it is.
We as Africans should no longer accept the status quo as life, and merely say 'awww well that's life, that's the real world.'
Statistics and norms can be challenged and changed. We just have to be willing to change and fight the system.
HUMNEWS youth contributor, Pokuaa Busumru-Banson, was chosen to speak on a panel by The Elders at the Fortune Summit in Cape Town. A national of Ghana, she is currently studying law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.