The Rising Powers’ Challenge to Mitigate Corruption: Cases of Brazil, South Korea and South Africa

A number of rising powers’ leaders were recently confronted with legal charges centred on corruption or corrupted practices ending in harsh judicial judgements that aren’t always favourable to the general public. Brazil , South Korea and South Africa amongst others. In the case of Brazil Lula da Silva the previous President of Brazil for 2 terms has been sentenced for nine years and six months in prison after being found guilty on corruption and money laundering. The alleged scandal is linked to the oil giant Petrobras. The previous American President Barak Obama once characterized Da Lula as “the most popular politician on earth”.  Hence, his dramatic fall down from the highest “Presidency” office on earth deemed shocking for da – Lula and the Brazilians who saw in him a popular hero battling successfully the plight of the poor in the labour movement because he was essentially one of them.

Thus, “born into the barefoot poverty in Brazil’s arid north-east, Lula ran the powerful metal workers’ union before helping found the Workers’ party with fellow leftists, unionists and intellectuals in 1980.” Lula’s failure in successive elections for the highest post didn’t hamper his determination to try again until he achieved his aspiration in 2002. His prominent socio-economic policies has helped elevate tens of millions of Brazilians from the scourge of poverty. His popular image gained him exceedingly extra-regional moral support beyond Brazil. Admittedly in recent years his reputation was impaired due to allegations of corruption due to persecution accusations that he had benefited from bribes amounting to about 590,000 British pounds from a construction company called OAS which the prosecution alleges that Lula gained and benefited from in the form of seaside duplex apartment upgraded from 53,000 British pounds.  Moreover, the persecution mentioned that this event is part of a transaction amounting to 21 million British pounds paid also by OAS as bribes to Lula’s Workers’ Party “in return for lucrative contracts as part of two oil refineries that Petrobras was building”.

Admittedly Lula has vehemently denied this story as stated in an incorrect manner. But the sentence was passed and he eventually complied with the judicial ruling. The story may not end here and we may still witness that the ruling be appealed by his defence team in the coming months. But what transpired is that as with his enormous responsibility as a leading figure at the highest helm of power, Lula wasn’t immune from any infringement of public office of highest –standard of ethical values. Whatever the eventual result may turn out to be his candidacy for third term as a new Brazilian President is still a matter of much speculation. His supporters from the Leftist camp will continue to support him but whether such a support will yield fruits time can only tell.

As to the South Korean case, the ex-President of South Korea Park Guen-hye “has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for abuse of power and corruption, in a scandal that exposed webs of double-dealing between political leaders and conglomerates, and the power of Rasputin like- figure at the top of the government”. Once again bribery is at the center of accusation added to it collusion to satisfy mutual financial and political interests. Thus, “the Prosecutors charged Park with 18 separate crimes and accused her of working with Choi (her close friend) in taking bribes of at least 25 million British pounds for political favors . She was also accused of leaking classified information.” It is important to know that Choi acted just like Rasputin a Russian mystic self-proclaimed holy man a domineering fearful figure who befriended the Romanov Russian family of Tsar Nicholas II the last monarch of Russia prior to the Bolshevik 1917 Revolution. Choi’s dominant influence over Park’s body and soul since Park’s formative years continued at later periods leading one opposition personality to describe the reign of Park as “a scary theocracy.” This kind of a scandal has indicated how much corruption can be generated through the interaction and the integrative illegal practices between Big Business and an In-depth power of the powerful state power. The end is a disappointing result revealing a stark shock for South Koreans who placed their trust in Park thinking that her coming to power was a rare personal opportunity to redeem 30 years of her father’s dictatorship rule which ended in his assassination. Also a distressing outcome for the first South Korean women assuming the highest privileged political office.

Finally, it is important to mention briefly the last case of corruption this time by the ex- President of South Africa Jacob Zuma who has been charged with corruption linked to 1990’s arms deal. He faced 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering charges which overwhelmed his previous presidency but then re-instated in 2016. Admittedly , such a sad state of affairs has led to his forced ouster from power at later period despite his continual denial that these illegal harmful acts against South Africa and its people has not occurred in any way or shape. His case has other tails to be told at a later period. It is unfortunate that such practices continued in the aftermath of the death of such a great beloved popular iconic leader Nelson Mandela who has set a high bar of value –system governmental and institutional standards and practices.

These 3 cases indicate how important and expedient for the Rising Powers to take note of the lessons of history and start revamping and rejuvenating its political, legal and judicial institutions to serve states’ interests and peoples through highlighting: “Good-Governance and the rule of law” and by applying social justice to all people without distinction no matter how high or low they are in the hierarchy of power politics. Certainly when they are at the top of the pyramid of power they should be more responsible, transparent and accountable to their people and to the future incoming generations.

Ahmad Shikara

Member of the faculty at the EmiratesCenter for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi since 2000. There he works in the Training Department and in Human Resources. He recently published on the ramifications of Iraqi elections. In the past he conducted extensive research at the ECSSR and has conducted graduate and faculty seminars focusing on the effect of resource scarcity on the Arabian Gulf and the United States. Dr. Shikara, and before joining the ECSSR, served on the Political Science Department at the United Arab Emirates University (1980-1994), as an honorary professor at the Institute of Developing Economies in Japan (1994) and as a research fellow in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (1996-2000).

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