I was listening to talk radio in Cape Town the other day, when I heard what sounded like the most fantastic idea for dealing with people who steal from the public purse, those found guilty of corruption, abuse of power, etc.
A caller came up with quite a radical suggestion about what to do with such people. Instead of just firing the culprits or getting them to “step aside”, as we do in Kenya, they should be arrested, charged and, if found guilty, not jailed necessarily, but put to work under a community service order. This would all be paid for by the monies recovered from whatever they had stolen or siphoned out of the country.
So, for instance, if the money stolen was enough to build a school or a hospital, then you should be put to work on the construction site, building a school or a hospital in an area where there is most need. Obviously, such an idea would need refinement by lawyers to ensure that it did not interfere with any constitutional rights, but surely it is feasible.
Such a system would also ensure that these vicious and malicious economic saboteurs, who feel entitled to get rich as quick as possible and damn anyone who gets squashed in the process, did not just quietly drop out of view only to return to public service through the back door after stepping aside. For instance, if you were found guilty of involvement in stealing money from a publicly funded organisation, you would not be allowed to go off quietly for a few weeks or months, only to reinvent yourself for a run at the governorship of some county, or whatever.
Once these convicts had served their time building a hospital or school or road or public park or whatever, the project would be named after the wrongdoer, not to praise their forced contribution to the betterment of society, but to serve as a warning to any others who were tempted to steal from the public purse. There would be a plaque on the building, for example, explaining why the person it is named after has been so shamed. This would ensure that such criminals are never forgotten, even if they are eventually forgiven.
This treatment of economic saboteurs and their ilk would be part of a broader network of alternative to incarceration programmes that would in the long run lessen the overcrowding of our jails, while at the same time imparting new skills to the convicts.
Let’s face it, crime is expensive and we shouldn’t really be making it more so by using extravagant amounts of taxpayer money on people who were only too happy to steal from the same taxpayers.
Alternative programmes such as this, funded in part or in whole from their ill-gotten monies and from any assets seized from the families and, if implicated, associates such as their hairdressers, would be the humane version of the bullet fee levied to the family of executed prisoners in countries such as China.