God multiplies missionaries’ plan to restock shops hit by looting

Written by Andre Viljoen on August 4, 2021

“What can we do to help?” Kent and Lyndall Vanderyacht asked after they got over the initial shock of looting that had broken out in their area days before and their hearts went out to people in a nearby township left without food and hope.

The next morning — the Saturday after the Monday when the looting started — Lyndall prayed about their desire to help and then she asked Kent what he thought about the idea of restocking a looted spaza shop — just to help get their economy going again.

They just had one, or maybe two, shops in mind, said Kent. It was like their Hearts That Hope orphanage ministry in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, he explained, where they care for 11 children in addition to their own four kids. “We know that God can do great big things. But for us we are happy with getting relational, getting in people’s lives.”

He said they thought that with donations of about R100 or R200 and gifts of groceries from friends and family they could help a shopkeeper or two to get back on their feet again.

So they found out it would cost about R7 500 to restock a typical spaza shop and with the help of Lyndall’s marketing-savvy brother they had a “Stock-A-Shop” web page up and running by that Saturday evening and they launched the campaign on a Sunday morning.

Kent Vanderyacht, centre, talking with a shopkeeper in his looted shop in iLembe District, KwaZulu-Natal

“By Sunday night we had a hundred grand in our bank to stock shops. And it was like, okay, I guess we’re doing this and let’s just keep going until it stops,” he said.

When I spoke to Kent earlier this week he said donations to the campaign had reached R660 000. They had restocked 26 shops in the relatively small ILembe District township nearest to them. They had also fixed and secured many of the shops which had also been vandalised.

Kent said he and two local men who were assisting him were now in the next nearest township, speaking to shop owners and assessing their needs. He estimated they would be able to assist another 60 or 70 shops. He said it was amazing how people had come on board with the campaign to help shopkeepers start again. As long as donations kept coming in they would continue with the project, he said.

Kent estimated that in the 12km stretch between Ballito and Stanger, about 150 shops were looted. In the bigger townships closer to Durban he believes thousands of small shopkeepers lost their livelihoods through the looting.

Reflecting on their recent experience, Kent, who is a missionary from the United States, said he and Lyndall were shocked on the first Monday of the looting as they watched television footage of businesses being attacked with no police in sight. As they wondered whether looting which was happening just across the freeway would spread to their suburb they considered whether they should be thinking of moving to the US. He said he had been in Lebanon when war broke out but what he saw on TV that was happening in KZN was much more scary than that war.

Subsequently, local security companies protected Ballito and businesses there were not looted. On the Thursday of that week, without telling his wife, Kent prayed for God to protect him and rode his scooter into the township across the freeway and started speaking to people. Despite the racial tension that had been building over the past few days he said ordinary people in the township who were not involved in the looting welcomed him. He visited again on the Friday and that night he and Lyndall began asking the Lord how they could help.

Kent said one of the amazing things that has happened through the Stock-A-Shop campaign is that he has ended up working with a lot of Muslim shopkeepers. He said he had always wanted to go to the Middle East as a missionary. “And I said: ‘Wow God, it’s just like you. Now I’m in South Africa and you brought the Middle East to me and I’m getting to pray with these guys.’”

He said one of the Muslim people they were helping said: “God gave you Christians Jesus as a gift, so that you can give this gift to us.”

He said that shopkeepers they have helped have said their support has given them hope and a reason to start again. He said all of the shops in the first township they helped are up and running again and there was an improved atmosphere in the area.

When I spoke to him they had just been to the next township and found that no shops were open and there was great animosity between shopkeepers and the people who had looted their businesses. He said they have met with community leaders and various role players and want to help heal relations and remind people “you are all in this together”,

KZN miracles – U-turn for Mooi River

By Gerda-Marie, Dare To Love — originally published in Joy!News

Dare to Love spent Saturday last week rebuilding and equipping the community of Mooi River. This town in KwaZulu-Natal was the epicentre of the chaos that left South Africans in shock three weeks ago. Several shops were looted, vandalised and some of it torched.

A group of about 20 volunteers visited the besieged town, taking with them 50 tonnes of food, which included 2 000 bags of maize meal, and 2 300 Bibles (2 000 Zulu and 300 English) with sponsored transport all the way from Gauteng. Around 2 000 congregants of 50 local churches pitched up at the Bruntville Stadium to receive food parcels as well as encouragement. This stadium overlooks the N3 and the Mooi River Plaza – both of which were unsafe during July.

PHOTO: Joy!News
PHOTO: Joy!News

In a series of miraculous events, the donated food seemed to have multiplied as more than 3 000 households received food parcels, which included a bag of maize meal. The remaining food, which included vegetables and maize meal, was donated to the local police, the homeless in Mooi River, other rural communities and an old age home in Harrismith.

When trucks were unable to enter the stadium, someone lent a forklift and several people rolled up their sleeves to help the volunteers to distribute food – another one of 42 miracles which were recorded and an answer to the team’s prayers.

PHOTO: Joy!News
PHOTO: Joy!News

One of the volunteers says the visit was a turning point for the brutalised area. “The rebuilding of figurative walls started with bricks of grace and hope, members of the community responded well to a Gospel message of hope.” Several people raised their hands as a sign of their decision to change their ways and turn to God.  “We prayed, repented, worshipped, danced, saw deliverances, miracles, people taking hands and sharing grace,” said another volunteer.

Children also received attention and had the opportunity to dance with flags on the beat of Jerusalema and other gospels songs.

PHOTO: Joy!News
PHOTO: Joy!News

The day was preceded by a men’s conference which had already been arranged earlier this year but happened to be godly timing. Dare to Love would like to thank the food sponsors, Vuyela Logistics for the transport and One Life Church for the coordination with the local churches

Police and pastors pray for nation at mall in Diepsloot

Diepsloot Police Station spokesperson Captain Tinyiko Mathebula. (PHOTO: File/Midrand Reporter)

Diepsloot Pastors Forum and South African Police Service hosted a prayer session at a mall in Diepsloot, Johannesburg on July 18 as part of a National Day of Prayer, according to a report published in Midrand Reporter today.

A senior pastor at Almighty Christian Church in Diepsloot, Eliot Chiworeka, said the prayer event was part of the National Day of Prayer announced, following a recent episode of unrest and looting of shops in some parts of Gauteng and in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The president of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, has urged members of all faith-based organizations to pray for the country, following the recent unrest and looting of shops while the country was battling with Covid-19 third wave. We hosted this prayer as a response to the president’s plea for prayers.”

SAPS and Diepsloot Pastors Forum host a prayer session at a local mall (PHOTO: supplied/Midrand Reporter)

Chiworeka continued: “Because of Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown restrictions, we invited only pastors and church leaders in order to comply and adhere to safety protocols as required by the Disaster Management Act.

“We strongly believe that God will intervene in calming our people and heal our land.”

Diepsloot Police Station spokesperson Captain Tinyiko Mathebula added: “Our station has a good partnership with Diepsloot Pastors Forum and work closely with them.”

Mathebula concluded: “We were part of the prayer to pray for the country.”

South Africa Unrest: Counting the costs

July 2021 saw a spike in violent outbreaks of lootings and disruption of strategic supply lines for vital commodities.

337 people lost their lives. 161 Malls were destroyed, as were 11 warehouses, 8 factories, and 161 liquor outlets. 1400 ATMs were damaged and over 150 000 jobs were put at risk.

The estimated cost to GDP is 50 billion rands.

Evidence suggests a planned insurrection by those who demand the release of the former State President Jacob Zuma. He was recently arrested for contempt of court and refusing to give account for large-scale corruption under his presidency.


President Cyril Ramaphosa described these events as “an insurrection” and “economic sabotage”, and vowed that
those responsible will be brought to book.


TEASA, a SACLi partner recently held a State of Our nation webinar to explore the underlying issues.


Prayer Notes:

  1. Pray for those with dark motives to be exposed, tried, and held to account.
  2. Pray for the Judiciary to hold steady and not be intimidated.
  3. Pray for President Cyril Ramaphosa to act with courage and wisdom in very difficult times within a party where the balance of forces appears at a knife’s edge.
  4. Pray for a heightened citizen’s awareness and responsibility to resist lawlessness and defend jobs.
  5. For churches to find their voice and ministry as Peacemakers.

#UnrestSA: SA Council of Churches proposes amnesty for looters

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has proposed the declaration of an amnesty for a week or two, during which anyone who looted during the recent unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal can return stolen goods and avoid prosecution.

  • The SACC has proposed that looters be given an amnesty of a week or two to return stolen goods.
  • The council  submitted their proposal on Tuesday during a meeting with the president.
  • The religious group condemned the riots and pleaded with those who were encouraging the violence to stop.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana said the SACC submitted the proposal to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday during their religious group meeting as part of their plan to resolve the ongoing unrest and restore order.

He said it was part of a healing campaign for restoration with amnesty, to encourage a positive social conscience.

Briefing the media on Thursday, Mpumlwana said it was commendable that most of the country was not gripped by the mayhem.

“Churches wish to encourage people who have looted to attempt to return things they stole, by delivering them [to their] nearest police stations. We do not expect a large-scale uptake of this, but we know that it is already in consideration in certain communities,” Mpumlwana said.

Included in the proposal to Ramaphosa, the council said it was aware of cases in which “state capture looting” money had been recovered. It proposed that this money be used to compensate people for the unrest, which destroyed many businesses and property in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The SACC  said it urged an aggressive effort to restore stolen money and suggested that the National Treasury consider applying recovered state capture money to the development and sustenance of a proposed Economic Restoration Fund. The fund can then be used to provide financial relief to businesses affected by the unrest.

Mpumlwana added: “We believe that such a fund can be the beginning of a fund that others, whose conscience inspires them, can support for the long-overdue economic transformation.

WATCH | Snaking queues for food and fuel as KZN grapples with the aftermath of mass looting

In parts of KwaZulu-Natal, motorists are scrambling to find fuel, while others stand in snaking queues for food. Many food stores were looted, trashed, and set on fire, many of those who were not affected chose to close their doors in fear.

“Economic transformation must deliberately and systematically enhance human dignity and the quality of life by preserving not only the environmental sustainability of our planet but also by enabling the participation in the productive economy of poor citizens and the disadvantaged majority with a process that progressively engenders wealth redistribution; to reverse poverty, inequality, and low growth through inclusivity.”

Mpumlwana added that the restoration campaign had already begun, with community leaders who fought against looting, and for the protection of their community infrastructure. 

Racism

The bible teaches that God made all humanity in his image, and calls for Christians to oppose racism of any kind.

God calls Christians to oppose racism and prejudice of any kind. Over the centuries, Christians have led campaigns to establish rights for groups who have been oppressed because of their race or ethnicity. Christians were at the heart of the drive to abolish slavery, the civil rights movement in the United States, and the move to end apartheid in South Africa. More recently, Christians have been prominent in the Black Lives Matter movement. But, to its shame, some parts of the Church have also misused and misinterpreted parts of the Bible to defend the evils of slavery and racism. The teachings and lifestyle of Jesus Christ during his time on earth 2,000 years ago demonstrate these practices are wrong. Jesus showed kindness and acceptance to people of other minority groups. For example, many of the Jewish people of the time hated and shunned the Samaritans, a neighboring mixed-race ethnic group. But Jesus engaged with them as equals. He even made them the heroes of one of the stories he used to teach his followers: The Good Samaritan. It is true that Jesus refers to slaves in some of his teachings and does not explicitly say slavery is wrong, but in the Bible book, Mark, he says, ‘love your neighbor as yourself…’ Slavery and racism are a clear violations of this principle.

God calls Christians to oppose racism and prejudice of any kind.

Respect for ethnic groups in the Bible

The laws which governed the lives of the Jewish people in the centuries before Jesus are set out in the Old Testament part of the Bible. Three groups of people are singled out for special protection because they were vulnerable: orphans, widows, and people of other races who lived in the land. The Bible book, Exodus, says, ‘do not oppress or mistreat a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt…’ Laws were established to let other ethnic groups thrive in situations where they might otherwise suffer. And in the early years of the Christian church in the first century after Jesus’ life, there is teaching about the equality of all people, whatever race, gender, or status. The Bible book, Galatians, says, ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus….’ People of colour were appointed to positions of leadership in those first churches. For instance, among the leaders of the church in Antioch, was Simeon. The Bible book Acts, notes that he had black skin.

Desmond Tutu | The Elders

The efforts of Christian figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu to end apartheid in South Africa and the Revd Dr. Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister, in opposing segregation in the USA, are well documented. Christians such as William Wilberforce led the campaign to abolish slavery in the 19th century. But it cannot be overlooked that there are dark chapters in Christian history where there has been hatred and cruelty by one race against another. In the 12th century, England a rumor that King Richard had ordered a massacre of Jewish people led to bloodshed by Christians. The Crusades, which began in the 11th century, is part of a shameful legacy of violence against Muslims. The hatred demonstrated by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan against people of colour in the United States began as a movement apparently endorsing Protestant Christian values. It has since been denounced by every Christian denomination.


Christians now would say the racism exhibited by churches in previous generations was based on ignorance and misunderstanding of the Bible. This was even expressed in art: for hundreds of years, Jesus Christ was depicted as a blue-eyed, blond man despite the fact that he was Jewish and had been born in the Middle East. Some Christians would point to more subtle forms of racism which continue, deliberately or unintentionally. Many are frustrated by what some call institutional racism in public bodies such as the Church which has, at times, held back the careers of people of colour. But progress is being made towards a Church that reflects the Christian teaching that God made all humanity in his image.

Refreshing Prayer | Who’s Pursuing Whom?

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

September is a blink away. And it often feels more like a new beginning than January, where nothing much changes except the number of the year. In September the school and university years begin, work gathers pace, club programmes reignite, things get going.

This year, that sense of a fresh start is perhaps intensified as we adjust to life after lockdown. September may not be the time to make resolutions, though it may still be a good moment for us to rethink the rhythm of our devotional lives. In doing so, there’s one vital lesson to keep in mind – Jesus came for us.

We did not ascend to heaven; God descended to earth. As John puts it, ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ His was the initiative, ours only the response. It is ever so. We only seek God because God first sought us. Indeed, whenever we feel a stirring to pursue him, it’s his grace that has put it there, his wooing that has roused us.

At the beginning of a new year, and perhaps in September too, many of us resolve to read our Bible more, to pray more, to be more fruitful in our everyday lives. We grit our teeth and ‘try harder. But we’re already on the back foot.

If we forget that God has taken the decision to come to us, our prayers become an exercise in striving. We try to pray for longer than we desire or pray the ‘right’ prayers. Soon we can feel dejected. Perhaps we have forgotten the grace of the incarnation, the coming of God to us. And so, the right response is not to strive but to rest, trusting that God wants to be with us, wants to listen, wants to speak.

So, instead of trying to manufacture an experience, it can be helpful simply to acknowledge his presence, repeating quietly to oneself a short phrase like ‘You are here. And I am here. Even in this situation. On this frontline.

In this position of prayerful trust, we can be confident that the places in which we find ourselves, the people among whom we live and work, and the tasks to which he calls us will all be permeated by the presence of the one who is ‘full of grace and truth’.

Matthew Greene

Matthew is a ministry trainee at All Souls Langham Place, London, who loves to read theology, run, and share time with close friends.

10 Quick Q&As on the Church’s Intersection with the Marketplace and Politics

By Nikki Toyama-Szeto

Christians for Social Action (CSA)

In June 2021, CSA Executive Director Nikki Toyama-Szeto and CSA Founder Ron Sider took part in a 3-day Church and Politics Summit in Kenya designed to create meaningful dialogue between the Christian community and the political marketspace. (View Ron’s presentation here.) Several thousand people attended the summit as a high-level church and civic leaders reflected on questions like: Should the church engage in politics? Should Christians actively advance a political agenda? and Can Christian clergy seek elective political office?

The summit was an initiative of the Kenyan Church, in conjunction with Hesabika Trust, Kenya Christians Professionals Forum, and The Catalead.

It is interesting, but not surprising, that conference attendees had quite a few questions about the church in America and its intersection with politics. Due to a lack of time, we were not able to get to all the questions. In order to continue this important conversation on the intersection of faith and politics, we chose 10 questions posed by participants and are sharing Nikki Toyama-Szeto’s short responses. We do so in an effort to help all of us think critically about how our politics influence our witness and worldview, and vice versa.

_____

1. On financial equity: How can we reinvent Jubilee in the present age? Should Christians begin a global quest for amnesty for debt for nations unable to pay back the money? Should debt relief be expanded?

The principles of Jubilee provide Christian leaders with an interesting framework to consider. One of the fundamental principles is a recognition of both the responsibility to pay back debts, but also the recognition that there are exploitative ways that debt can create an environment that perpetuates debt. (One example is the lending practices that end up enslaving people as they try to repay a debt.)

Specifically, to the international debt practices, I believe that amnesty for debt for nations should be considered but should not be a regular practice. It seems wrong from a Christian perspective when nations are paying disproportionate amounts to service their debt to international lending agencies while their people lack some of the services that their government could otherwise provide. A government’s responsibility should be to the citizens first. (This doesn’t get into a question of corruption, which is also a concern and would change my opinion with regards to debt repayment.) What I’m addressing is the moral question: demanding payment from governments in debt while basic services are being un-funded feels like a capitalistic system overriding the responsibility or function of a government.

2. On drugs: Drugs kill people, the war on drugs kills people. Should we then support the legalization of drugs or the fight against drugs?

Christians believe that our bodies are temples where God’s Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:19). Therefore, we should take care of the bodies that God has given us. This would inform my concerns about both non-medical drugs (recreational drug use) and legalized substances. The legalization question is one that needs to be wrestled within the local context as there are many cultural and social implications. One thing that is for certain flawed is the way the “war on drugs” in the United States disproportionately has penalized specific racial groups (most notably the African-American community). The disproportionate legal action against the African-American community is well documented, and it’s the abuse of the “war on drug” mandate that causes me some hesitation for fear it might be a cover for legitimating (whether accidentally or intentionally) increased incarceration of a vulnerable community.

3. On critical race theory: What is the Christian response to critical race theory, especially as a vehicle for unity and oneness in the church?

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that helps the community to understand both legal and systemic manifestations of racism. Like many tools of analysis, there is much for Christians to learn in order to help us understand the realities of the world around us. Like other tools, there are places where the purposes of the tool deviate from the Christian priorities.

However, I’m deeply saddened by how politicized this tool has become. Unity or “oneness” that doesn’t examine history (or doesn’t acknowledge past wrongs done) is a thin unity—perhaps one in the picture only. The unity and oneness that God calls for is unity in Christ. The church is called to the restoration of the right relationship (right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with God’s created world). CRT can help unearth some of the places where relationships have been broken and where, in Jesus, they can be made right.

4. On expanding & understanding our worldview: If part of understanding a biblical approach to politics is critically examining other worldviews, how do Christians do so in a way that is both an honest exploration and based in fact? 

Empathetic listening, or entering into a story from another’s point of view, is a great way to explore. We should always be asking, “What can I learn about people who have _______ worldview?”

Personally, I have sought out experiences of displacement. Perhaps this means entering into a situation where I’m not in the majority or choosing to enter into a story that is very different from my own. These experiences of displacement have helped me to understand some of the assumptions that I bring. To be honest, this has enriched my own faith.

For example, I feel challenged to find that in the Muslim context, the spiritual leaders are chosen in a way that is very different from what I am familiar with. In my U.S. context, Christian pastors are usually required to have a Master in Divinity. And while most may have the education, many may not have the gifting or the interpersonal skills that also make for an effective pastor. These new experiences challenge me to think about the requirements we’ve put on our church leaders that may reflect our social values more than the spiritual qualifications.

5. On church & politics: What is the role of the church in politics? Through prayer, activism, advocacy, participation? A combination?

The role of the church in politics covers all those listed—prayer, activism, advocacy, and participation. The question is: How is God working in the church community and in the church members?

There are two additional things I hope the church would do. First, that the church would put accountability in place so that it doesn’t over-identify with one political party, but rather works to re-enforce its commitment to Jesus (at times it will be in line with or against different political parties). Second, that the church would provide a place for people of many political persuasions to wrestle with how their faith informs all areas of their lives, including their political presence, actions, and convictions.

6. On historical injustice: How are issues of historical injustice (like land being taken from Native Americans and the slavery of Black people) best addressed? How do we simultaneously look at past, present, and future?

What’s important is that the past, present, and future are looked at. It is particularly important to do a good dive into history. What happened, and why? How is the impact of this history continuing to play out today? Some of the answers to this inform how we respond today.

Then, we must ask, How do we break these cycles and set out towards a different future? For example, it’s important for those in the United States to understand on whose land their churches are currently meeting. There is a live conversation in the United States about responding to the legacy of slavery. I particularly like Georgetown University’s approach in which the community looked deeply at the history of their school and their own complicity in enslaving people. They also identified ways to make that history visible, and as a result, have made several recommendations for economic restitution to be made to those who descended from the enslaved peoples. Their process is informed by their Christian (Catholic) faith and provides many helpful practices for other communities asking the same question.

7. On voting: When we make a decision on who to vote for, do we begin with the individual running and their beliefs, or do we start with the ideologies of the political party that person ascribes to?

I would ask multiple Christians in your context how they approach this. For me, I look at the individual—their values and their beliefs, but also their character. I am also informed by what they say are their policy priorities (usually this reflects the priorities of the party). Additionally, I ask whether this person has actions that back up their commitment to these policies. In all this, while I look at my interests, I also try to take on the point of view of people who have less power than I have, and I ask the questions of who will govern best with the vulnerable in mind.

8. On post-Christianity: Post-Christianity is real in America. How do we continue to look to Scripture and Jesus as our model for addressing major issues in our country without leaning towards liberalism?

Having both a high view of scripture and increased scriptural engagement are core anchors.  Christians should not fear asking tough questions or interrogating the motives or perspectives of people in the past. The current movement of interrogating “colonized theologies” is fruitful, but we shouldn’t stop with criticism. Where are the generative places where our understanding of God is being strengthened, particularly among those who have historically been left out of these conversations (due to access, language, literacy issues, etc.)?

The reality of post-Christianity in America should be a response of humility. There may be a renewing of the faith as Christianity learns not to operate from the centre of power but rather from a de-centred place. This may ultimately be fruitful for the church. I will also note that as I look at places that are truly post-Christian, I don’t see the U.S. as moving as far along in that place as I do in other places. The reality of the embedded practices of the Christian faith in the culture is still very strong.

9. On unity & diversity in politics: How do Christian Republicans and Democrats come together as the body of Christ, especially when they disagree on very important matters?

As Christians, we are called to a unity in Christ that is deeper than agreement. This opens the door for Republicans and Democrats to come together. My sense is that many Christians have a similar set of values, but the order of importance of those might be different. Or the expression of the path to get to that might be different. There are also genuine and deeply felt differences.

But the Christian whose identity is in Jesus should have the ability to generously enter into the “other’s” perspective, knowing that the other is also an image-bearer of God—and that perhaps there is something that God would say through an entirely different perspective. Unless one can govern a community that has identical beliefs and is of the same party, the pastoral call of politicians to care for their full “flock” would be served by the ability to enter into these conversations across deep differences.

10. On keeping integrity in politics: I lived in the U.S. for some time, and I noticed that many honest Christians were not elected to public office. How can honest Christians find ways to influence culture and engage in politics without compromise?

The challenge for Christians in politics is the same as the challenge for Christians in any space where there are elements that compete for the Christian’s time, heart, and dreams. Christians who want to influence without compromise can do two things to begin:

  • Identify a community of Christians who will journey with you, speak truth to you, and with whom you can share the elements that you want accountability for.
  • Identify a few trusted Christian advisers with whom you meet regularly and who you invite.

One of the elements that we have seen lately is the public (moral) failure of many high-profile pastors and evangelists. One of the people who was involved in leading an exploration into one of these cases commented to me that “accountability and transparency” are two things that are utterly needed for Christian leaders with power and influence.

We are not God. Elements that introduce accountability and transparency would help. Transparency is tricky because as politicians and high-level leaders, the issues are complex, and discretion is key. Helping to navigate appropriate transparency with discretion (when appropriate) is important, but having a community where one can have full transparency is absolutely critical.

Nikki Toyama-Szeto is CSA’s executive director.

Addressing corruption in South Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a multitude of governance failures around the world and led to increased calls for fundamental changes to our global political, economic and social systems. Against the backdrop of a looming global recession, addressing corruption and the misappropriation of state resources remains as important as ever.

To download the full publication click on the link below

AddressingCorruption

Addressing Corruption Openly: From Against Corruption: A Collection of Essays

International Monetary Fund

Author: Ms Christine Lagarde

Traditionally, public officials have been somewhat nervous about discussing corruption openly. Over the past several years, however, I have been struck by the extent to which world leaders are now willing to talk candidly about this problem. It is not just that the economic costs have become self-evident. It is also because there is an increasing demand for change. In a recent global survey, corruption was regarded as the “topic most frequently discussed by the public,” ahead of poverty and unemployment (survey cited by Klitgaard 2015, p. 15). Given that both poverty and unemployment can be symptoms of chronic corruption, my view is that the priority given to this problem by the public is entirely justified.

In this essay, I would like to share the IMF’s perspective on the economic impact of corruption and our experience in helping countries design and implement strategies to address it.

I recognize that there are many possible definitions of corruption, both broad and narrow. For the purposes of this essay, which is focused on the public sector, corruption includes any abuse of public office—whether it arises from financial incentives or political interference.

I would like to make three main points.

First, while the direct economic costs of corruption are well known, the indirect costs may be even more substantial and debilitating, leading to low growth and greater income inequality. Corruption also has a broader corrosive impact on society. It undermines trust in government and erodes the ethical standards of private citizens.

Second, although corruption is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon, I do not accept the proposition—or the myth—that it is primarily a “cultural” problem that will always take generations to address. There are examples of countries that have managed to make significant progress in addressing it in a relatively short time.

Third, experience demonstrates that a holistic, multi-faceted approach is needed—one that establishes appropriate incentives and the rule of law, promotes transparency, and introduces economic reforms that reduce opportunities for illicit behavior. Perhaps the most important ingredient for a successful anti-corruption approach is the development of strong institutions, centered on a professional civil service that is sufficiently independent from both private influence and political interference.

The Economic and Social Costs

Corruption afflicts countries at all stages of development. Indeed, some developing countries score better on corruption indices than many advanced countries. While there are no recent studies that quantify the overall global scale of corruption, a sense of how big a problem it is can be gauged from an estimate of the amount paid in bribes every year. A recently updated estimate points to $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion (or around 2% of global gross domestic product) in bribes paid annually in both developing and developed countries. Given that bribes are just a subset of all of the possible forms of corruption, the overall cost of corruption—in terms both of tangible losses and of lost opportunities—is a very high amount.

The direct economic costs of corruption are easily recognized by the general public. Two very clear examples are bribes given in order to evade taxes or to bypass public tender procurement. The first example results in a direct loss of public revenues; the second may result in both higher public expenditure and lower-quality public investment.

Corruption has a pernicious effect on the economy. Pervasive corruption makes it harder to conduct sound fiscal policy. For example, in data covering a range of countries, we find that low tax compliance is positively associated with corruption. By delegitimizing the tax system and its administration, corruption increases tax evasion: if the granting of a tax exemption is perceived to be the product of a bribe, it is not surprising that the public are far less willing to comply with the tax laws.

Corruption also undermines certain types of public expenditure to the detriment of economic performance. For example, it is associated with lower outlays on education and skewed public investment, driven by the capacity to generate “commissions” rather than by economic justification (Mauro 1998). The distortion in public investment spending is particularly harmful given the importance of promoting efficient public investment as a means of reducing infrastructure gaps and promoting growth.

The indirect economic costs of corruption may be even more consequential. Clearly, causation is difficult to establish and, in quantitative analysis, a significant effect of corruption on growth has not been found (Svensson 2005). Nevertheless, in comparative studies of national data, corruption is associated with a number of key indicators. Countries with

“Pervasive corruption makes it harder to conduct sound fiscal policy.”

“The higher costs associated with corruption are a form of tax on investment that, in turn, translates into less investment in business research and development and product innovation.”

low per capita income tend to have higher corruption, and countries with higher corruption tend to have lower growth. Studies have identified different ways in which corruption could affect growth.

First, corruption tends to impede both foreign and domestic investment. The higher costs associated with corruption are a form of tax on investment that, in turn, translates into less investment in business research and development and product innovation. Moreover, by creating uncertainty as to how the regulatory framework will be applied, it increases the “country risk” associated with a particular investment project. More generally, corruption generates an unfavorable business climate in which the creation of new enterprises is stifled, reducing the economy’s dynamism.

Second, corruption undercuts savings. The illegal use of public funds to acquire assets abroad shrinks the economy’s pool of savings that could otherwise be used for investment.

Finally, corruption can perpetuate inefficiency. Because an over-regulated economy provides opportunities for regulators to demand bribes, corruption creates a strong incentive to delay economic liberalization and innovation.

The impact of corruption on social outcomes is also consequential. Social spending on education and health is typically lower in corrupt systems. This, in turn, leads to higher child and infant mortality rates, lower birth-weights, less access to education, and higher school dropout rates (Gupta, Davoodi, and Tiongson 2002).

These outcomes disproportionately affect the poor, since they rely more heavily on government services, which become costlier due to corruption. Moreover, corruption reduces the income-earning potential of the poor as they are less well-positioned to take advantage of it. For all these reasons, corruption exacerbates income inequality and poverty (Gupta, Davoodi, and Alonso-Terme 2002).

“Where powerful business elites collude to control public institutions, corruption results in state capture and ‘the privatization of public policy.’”

Corruption also breeds public distrust in government. It undermines the state’s capacity to raise revenue and to perform its functions as a supplier of public goods and services, a regulator of markets, and an agent for society’s redistributive goals. Where powerful business elites collude to control public institutions, corruption results in state capture and “the privatization of public policy.”

The fallouts are all too clear: higher inequality in political influence, deterioration of public values, and ultimately a diminution in the overall quality of life. These non-economic costs create a vicious cycle of underperformance in the public sector that is harmful to the economy in the long term. The moral fabric of society is also put at risk. It is not just that bribery becomes part of one’s everyday life. In a society where success is more likely to depend on who you know rather than on personal merit, the incentives for young people to pursue higher education are undermined.

Strategies for Addressing Corruption

Given the potential impact of corruption on macroeconomic stability and sustainable economic growth, the IMF has been actively engaged in helping our members design and implement anti-corruption strategies. In 1997, the Fund adopted a policy on governance that provides guidance on the nature of its involvement in circumstances where issues of governance, including corruption, are judged to have a significant macroeconomic impact.

Since that time, we have gained considerable experience in helping members design and implement anti-corruption strategies. This is particularly important in the context of economic crises, where effective anti-corruption measures are critical to restore confidence. In some cases, the problem has been so severe that the Fund had no choice but to withhold support until a credible reform strategy was in place.

Clearly, any anti-corruption strategy must be tailored to the circumstances of the particular country. Yet we have found that success requires the existence of a number of mutually supporting features, which are briefly summarized here.

Creating the Right Incentives

As has been noted by one expert in this area, “Corruption is an economic crime, not a crime of passion. Givers and takers of bribes respond to incentives and punishments” (Klitgaard 2015, p. 37). A number of instruments— broadly characterized as disciplinary in nature (sticks)—can enhance individual accountability. Other instruments provide positive reinforcement (carrots). The Fund’s experience is that an effective anti-corruption approach needs both positive and deterrent measures.

Strengthening the rule of law is critical to increasing individual accountability. The Fund has taken an active role—including through its conditionality—to strengthen legal frameworks that are designed to increase such accountability. For example, Ukraine’s current Fund-supported programme provides for the enhancement of legislation in a number of areas, including, in particular, the law on corruption.

However, unless legislation is effectively enforced, it will not be credible in deterring corruption. Without effective law enforcement institutions—the police and other investigatory services, the public prosecutor’s office, and, ultimately, the courts—even the most robust legal framework will be ineffective. So, the greatest challenge arises when corruption has permeated society to the point that these institutions themselves have become compromised. In these cases, it may be necessary to create specialized “bridging” institutions in the hope that they can more effectively fight corruption, including in the traditional law enforcement institutions, while broader institutional reform is implemented. These “bridging” institutions include independent anti-corruption commissions and specialized anti-corruption courts, such as those currently being established in Ukraine and the earlier ones in Indonesia (IMF 2015b; IMF 2004).

“… the greatest challenge arises when corruption has permeated society to the point that these institutions themselves have become compromised.”

In this context, the Fund has found that the establishment of Anti-Money Laundering Frameworks is central to the fight against corruption. Requiring banks to report on suspicious transactions provides a very effective means of deterring criminal activities. The fact that these laws generally require even closer scrutiny of transactions conducted by “politically exposed persons” makes them particularly relevant to an anti-corruption strategy.

Beyond the enforcement measures discussed above, an effective anti-corruption policy must also rely on transparency. Transparency shines a spotlight on government decisions and transactions, enabling citizens to monitor the actions of their governments which, in turn, deters corrupt behavior. Publicizing instances of corruption and the efforts taken to address them also serves as a disincentive to engage in corrupt activities and shores up public trust in government. For these reasons, the Fund has been actively engaged in promoting greater transparency in the overall economic and regulatory environment.

We have developed standards and codes of best practices in areas such as data dissemination, fiscal transparency, and monetary and financial policies (IMF 1997). Promoting transparency in the extractive industries is another area that the Fund has actively pursued in its technical assistance work. Under the aegis of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a template is now available for reporting and monitoring government revenues from natural resources.

Transparency can only go so far. It needs accountability for it to become a powerful deterrent against corruption. It is critical that public officials and institutions be assigned with specific mandates and tasks upon which they are expected to deliver. Moreover, oversight mechanisms are needed to ensure that officials and institutions are delivering as expected. This is why the Fund has actively supported its members in strengthening those institutions that exercise oversight powers in the management of public funds and in enhancing the financial accountability of state-owned enterprises. It has also provided technical assistance to help members monitor the use of public resources and consolidate extra-budgetary funds into the budget.

Even well-meaning public officials will be tempted by corruption if they cannot earn a living wage. Research shows a correlation between increases in wages and improvements in a country’s ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) (Van Rijckeghem and Weder 2002). This is why Fund-supported programmes have sometimes included increases in public salaries as part of an anti-corruption approach (IMF 2006). That said, there are two critical considerations. First, the remuneration of the public sector needs to be transparent and meritocratic; otherwise, it will be perceived as merely an instrument of political patronage. Second, studies show that an increase in remuneration will have little effect unless accompanied by clear signals that public officials will lose their jobs if they are caught engaging in corrupt acts.

“Even well-meaning public officials will be tempted by corruption if they cannot earn a living wage.”

“The challenge…is to design regulatory frameworks that balance the benefits of regulation while minimizing opportunities for abuse of discretion.”

Economic Liberalization and Effective Regulation

As I have indicated, one of the costs of corruption is that regulators seeking bribes through approval processes have an incentive to delay the type of economic liberalization that fosters sustainable growth. Wherever discretion is granted to an official regarding the approval of an economic activity, there is a risk that this discretion will be abused. Appropriately designed liberalization can therefore be a powerful anti-corruption instrument.

As part of its core mandate, the Fund has been actively engaged in encouraging liberalization of trade, price, and financial systems. We have also advocated free and fair market-entry regulations, as well as good statistics and transparency. Importantly, where liberalization involves privatization, it is critical that safeguards—such as adequate and transparent procedures—are in place so that the sale of assets is not compromised by corruption.

Of course, experience demonstrates that regulation in a market economy is essential for both sustained growth and financial stability. The challenge, however, is to design regulatory frameworks that balance the benefits of regulation while minimizing opportunities for abuse of discretion. For this reason, in its core areas of expertise, the Fund has promoted the adoption of rules, procedures, and criteria that are as targeted, clear, simple, and transparent as possible. These areas include public expenditure management, tax policy and administration, banking and foreign exchange systems, and data management (IMF 1997).

“… experience shows that the private sector can become effective partners in combating corruption.”

The Role of the Private Sector

When people complain about corruption, they sometimes forget—perhaps conveniently— that for every bribe taken by a public official, one is given by a member of the private sector. Clearly, then, addressing the behavior of the private sector needs to be a key component of any effective anti-corruption strategy. How can this be done?

In some cases, this means using enforcement measures. For example, in those countries where bribery is a common way of facilitating foreign investment, it is critical that the country of the foreign investor enforces laws that prohibit foreign corrupt practices. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions can be invoked in this effort (OECD 1997).

However, experience also shows that the private sector can become effective partners in combating corruption. It is sometimes said that business might benefit from corruption by virtue of the fact that it can “grease the wheels” of a rigid and inefficient bureaucracy. I disagree with that proposition. Based on my own experience, investors actually seek out countries that can give them the assurance that, once an investment is made, they will not be blackmailed into providing bribes. Because corruption creates an enormous amount of unpredictability for businesses, anti-corruption strategies can be designed to solicit their support.

I find Indonesia’s experience of implementing that partnership particularly illuminating. At a recent seminar hosted by the IMF on the topic, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s former Minister of Finance (and currently Chief of Operations at the World Bank), described how she successfully partnered with businesses to provide a streamlined customs approval process in exchange for their commitment not to offer any bribes to officials—“new rules of the game.”

The “new rules of the game” concept has underpinned several technical assistance activities by the Fund and the World Bank. In reforming tax agencies in Bolivia, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Myanmar, Peru, Poland, and Senegal, Large or Medium Taxpayers’ Offices were established to deal with a select group of taxpayers under streamlined conditions.

Beyond the business community, civil society also has a role to play. Through the use of social media, civil society can become a powerful force in combating corruption. In addition to being a very effective means of monitoring government activities, social media can also greatly enhance the credibility of an anti-corruption campaign by linking new institutions that have a specific mandate in this area.

Building Values and Institutions

When dealing with corruption, a robust framework of incentives and a well-calibrated economic liberalization cannot be substitutes for strong values and effective institutions. Of course, developing values at a personal and institutional level may seem beyond the control of any government. It is clearly not something that can be legislated. Yet unless public officials take pride in their work—and their independence from both political and private influence—all other efforts will fail.

Building values among public officials requires sustained public education. Formal training can help but, ultimately, values are most effectively instilled through the education framework, societal pressure, and—as I will discuss further below—the example of leaders. The key objective is to develop a cadre of public officials who are—and are perceived to be—independent from both private influence and political interference. This is the single most important feature of a strong institution. Indeed, it has been noted that one way to assess the strength of an institution is to assess the extent to which key employees are replaced at the time of elections.

There are other factors that lend support to effective operation, some of which—such as rules that establish transparency and clear accountability—have already been mentioned. An area in which the Fund has been particularly active is the establishment of legislative and institutional frameworks that strengthen the independence, integrity, and governance of central banks, including through the Fund’s “safeguards assessments.” A recent example has been work in Tunisia in support of the Central Bank, which strengthened its independence, internal control mechanisms, and powers. Of course, enhancing the overall technical competence of officials who work in these institutions is also critical. For this reason, the Fund has invested considerable resources in capacity-building in a broad range of areas, from public finance management to the strengthening of the financial intelligence units, that are responsible for applying anti-money laundering laws.

“Building values among public officials requires sustained public education.”

Political Will

Developing professional institutions that do not become excessively politicized is critical. Yet the irony is that in circumstances where institutions have been completely compromised by corruption, active and sustained political will is essential. Powerful vested interests can only be effectively challenged when a country’s top leadership sends a clear signal that they are committed to do so.

In some cases, this may require wholesale dismissals within an agency that has a reputation for corrupt practices. Prosecuting the powerful “big fish,” which is necessary in order to send a clear signal of commitment and change, can only be achieved if a country’s leaders visibly support the process. Moreover, political leaders play a unique role in setting an example of professional integrity. Lee Kuan Yew is a leader who was very effective in both signaling a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and building competent institutions at a time when corruption was pervasive in Singapore.

Avoiding Pitfalls

Although active and sustained political leadership is critical to the success of any anti-corruption campaign, it is important that reforms in this area are not hijacked to implement a political agenda. One way of assessing whether anti-corruption efforts are credible is to note whether enforcement is limited to the prosecution of political rivals, or instead also extends to the government’s political supporters.

In addition, care should be taken to ensure that an anti-corruption campaign does not create such fear that public officials are reluctant to perform their duties. For example, in circumstances where state-owned banks have extended a loan to a company that has become insolvent, it is often in the interest of the bank, the debtor, and the economy more generally to restructure the loan (which might include principal write-downs) in a manner that enables the company to return to viability. Yet the Fund’s experience has been that, in some countries, the managers of state-owned banks are simply afraid to engage in such negotiations. They fear that, if they agree to any debt write-down, they will be prosecuted under the country’s corruption law for having wasted state assets—even though a restructuring might actually enhance the value of the bank’s claim relative to the alternative, the liquidation of the company.

Finally, although regulatory reform can promote simplicity and automaticity, there are certain functions, such as bank supervision, where discretion will always be essential. For these reasons, regulatory reform cannot be a substitute for the development of effective institutions.

Concluding Observations

As the head of an intergovernmental organization, I recognize that there may be considerable sensitivity about the IMF shining a spotlight on corruption. At the same time, the alternative—turning a blind eye to the problem—is not a viable option. As is recognized under its existing policies, it is not tenable for the IMF to assess a member’s economic prospects exclusively through the lens of monetary, fiscal, or financial sector policies, when the problem of corruption is endemic and has a major impact on economic performance. In such cases, the Fund will continue to engage constructively with its members in designing and implementing anti-corruption strategies, drawing upon its cross-country experience, while partnering with other international organizations that have proven expertise in this area.

Forgiveness

God is ready and waiting to forgive anyone who asks. It’s in the Bible, Psalm 86:5, NKJV. “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You”

God will always be waiting for us to return. It’s in the Bible, Isaiah 44:22, ESV. “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

King David based his hope of forgiveness on God’s compassion and unfailing love. It’s in the Bible, Psalm 51:1, NKJV. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.”

How great is God’s mercy? It’s in the Bible, Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Even when we have been unfaithful, God is faithful to forgive us if we confess. It’s in the Bible, I John 1:9, NKJV. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What if I am having trouble forgiving someone else? It’s in the Bible, Matthew 6:14-15, TLB. “Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.”

Don’t accumulate grudges and keep track of them. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 18:21-22, NKJV. “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

God forgives us many times a day, we should do the same. It’s in the Bible,  Luke 17:4, NKJV.  “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Just like Jesus forgave others while being crucified, we are to forgive, whether or not others confess their faults. It’s in the Bible, Luke 23:33-34, NKJV. “And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse people’s sins. It’s in the Bible, Luke 17:3, NKJV. “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”

 We are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. It’s in the Bible, Ephesians 4:32, NKJV. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

There is no possibility that Jesus will turn anyone away who seeks forgiveness. It’s in the Bible, John 6:37, NKJV. “ All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

Through forgiveness, Christ provides complete deliverance from the penalty of sin. It’s in the Bible, Colossians 2:13-14, ESV. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Racism

We all are covered by the same Christ, we are all one in Christ. It’s in the Bible, Galatians 3:26-28, For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Racism is a sin. It’s in the Bible, James 2:8-9, NIV. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”

All men have the same blood. It’s in the Bible, Acts 17:26, KJV. “And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

We are not to think of ourselves more highly than others. It’s in the Bible, Romans 12:3, NKJV. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt with each one a measure of faith.”

We will be judged on how we treat others, for how we treat others is how we would treat Jesus. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 25:40, NKJV. “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

God accepts people from every race, culture and nation. It’s in the Bible, Acts 10:34,35, NIV. “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.'”

God’s place of worship is to be a gathering for all nations. It’s in the Bible, Mark 11:17, NKJV. “Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’

The gospel is for every person in the world. It’s in the Bible, Revelation 14:6, NIV. “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.”

In Heaven, we all will worship the Lord together. It’s in the Bible, Isaiah 66:22, NIV.  “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.”