By Brad Kingsley
The images of destroyed malls and bulldozed gas stations concern some in the business community. They have been asking: “How can destruction be an act of progress? How can the removal of commercial entities further our development?”
In order to answer these questions, we must first look at the fundamental nature of house building. Construction is a complex matter whereby all elements of the engineering must be perfect, lest the house crumbles. Sometimes even the tiniest crack can prove fatal to an entire project. Sometimes merely overlooking one nut, or bolt can bring down the house. So, sometimes it is necessary to apply the medicine early; smash it down and start again.
In fact, in economics, there is a theory ‘Creative Destruction’, also known as Schumpeter’s gale, which is accredited to Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian American economist. Some believe it originated as a Marxist theory, but Schumpeter converted it into one that focused on economic innovation. Schumpeter wrote that the “gale of creative destruction” is a “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.
As illegal structures are destroyed across Kenya, legal – better – structures will replace them. Those cracks in our society may seem small, but in fact, they must be wholly removed if we are to build a house of prosperity and peace.
And any house must be built on strong foundations. The foundations of society must be moral. They must be deeply based on an ethical way of conducting everyday life. This requires a cleansing effort to remove corruption from its very roots. Graft has infected our society and left the moral foundations of our Kenyan house rotten; rotten to the core.
Uhuru’s war on graft is therefore crucially a mixture of top down and bottom up. The recent completion of hundreds of lifestyle audits shows the broad front in this battle. Hundreds of officials had to undergo rigid questioning and interrogation about where their assets and liabilities were, where their potential conflicts of interest lie, and whether or not they can be trusted to perform their duties. Some complained they felt as if they were being treated as suspects in a police investigation. The lie detector was even brought out in certain cases.
Those officials in procurement positions have been at the heart of leakage for decades. While, of course, everyone must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, if one has nothing to hide, then why complain about the audits? What could possibly be wrong with transparency?
Likewise, a similar problem was unearthed with the county governors. In a post-devolution world, we were supposed to be receiving a greater level of accountability and transparency. We were told that devolution would bring power to the people and help stamp out corruption with greater visibility of local officials and locally run projects.
However, with a sitting governor (Busia) and a former governor (Nairobi), and scores of other officials who surrounded them, all being charged in massive corruption cases; we have big questions to be asking. Perhaps even worse has been the response of the governors. Instead of coming to terms that there is a real problem with the graft at a county level, they came together to put an unambiguous and unanimous call for the immunity for governors!
So instead of getting behind Uhuru’s campaign against corruption, the governors have chosen not to lead by example, but to request exceptionalism. They think they are above the law!
Well, the actions of the new Director of Public Prosecution and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission have shown that no one is above the law. Senior officials are falling from grace. Individuals who believed they were untouchable are now in hot water.
This is exactly what the house of Kenya needs. Its foundations have been rotten for too long, and the house is in real danger of falling down. Thus, creative destruction is called for. We must destroy the illegal structures wherever they are built. We must touch the untouchables, arresting senior and junior officials, even it means destroying the structures of a parastatal, public sector office, or private company in the process.
Because only by conducting these targeted but necessary destructions, will we be able to create the house of prosperity and progress for all Kenyans to live in.
The writer comments on development and social issues.