No Power to Forgive

No Power to Forgive

- in Featured, Matters Compliance
Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939 – 23 January 2018) - Photo: Judith Burrows/Getty Images

In an interview with The Guardian, the late Hugh Masekela, when asked if he would forgive the white South Africans for apartheid, he said ‘…I don’t think I have the power to forgive…’  (MHSRP).

As we celebrate the life of a legend it is important that we also learn from some of his famous quotes that are very relevent to ethics and doing the right thing.

Now, does anyone have the power to forgive those involved in and who benefit from bribery and corruption?

There is corruption in both private and public enterprises; this piece will discuss the former. For purposes of risk management and to assure & insure stakeholders, innocent and unsuspecting customers and consumers, there is a need to ensure companies have robust controls to manage, preclude and mitigate the risk of bribery and corruption. The harm caused by bribery and corruption is as extensive as it is permanent, one who loses a business opportunity through this vice may never recover in life. One may be forgiven, including Hugh Masekela, for the ire displayed when asked about apartheid as someone’s livelihood and possibly extended family suffer irreparable harm and will never have a second chance. It is the same with investors who lose out when firms close shop with the root cause being the corruption and bribery vice. We only leave once, ‘…life is not an act, we are not in a movie…’ added Masekela.

The call is thus to all perpetrators and benefactors of corruption who have hitherto survived on bribery and corruption to bring the practice to a stop in the same manner Hugh symbolises the train coming to a stop at the end of his song Stimela.

In private firms, corruption and bribery take many forms including but not limited to offers for lunch, holidays, boat cruise, extras in vehicles, golf bags, hampers with the intention of influencing some action or inaction or with the expectation of a reciprocal gesture. Compliance professionals need to be close to the ground and ensure there are sufficient controls and policies to govern what kind of gifts and entertainment they give and or receive from customers, suppliers and public officers. There should be a monetary value limit beyond which prior approval should be obtained from Compliance and a log kept for purposes of analysing a trend. It should be noted that even in the absence of an actual bribery and corruption incident, not having documented controls is itself an offence.

Channels such as anonymous whistle blowing become pertinent and if accompanied by a reward the better. At a country level, a robust whistle blowing legislation will benefit both public and private firms if it provides fully on the protection of the whistle blower. Bribery and Corruption at private firm level affects the country as it increases the cost of doing business and erodes confidence in the jurisdiction. Procurement tenders should be full proof. In banks at the moment, given the cash and foreign currency shortages, this presents a possible fertile area where desperate customers may seek to induce favours to get cash or for their telegraphic transfers to be prioritised. Both the giver and receiver of a bribe are guilty. In any other firm, the fees paid to auditors for instance need scrutiny to ensure they are commiserate with the services rendered. The same with insurance quotations and valuations; in health it may be as simple as obtaining a sick leave note after a facilitation payment.

Corruption is an international malady’ (H. Masekela) and let us not find the power to forgive the offenders and those who are wilfully blind to its existence.

Desmond Chipunza is a holder of a Bachelor of Laws Honours Degree from the University of Zimbabwe, MBA (Banking& Finance) from National University of Science & Technology. He also holds certificates in Enterprise Risk Management, Governance Risk & Compliance, and is a Certified Compliance Professional with IABFM. He can be contacted on

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