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Civil Disobedience or Positive Defiance - Ghana is Bleeding

Tue, 19 Nov 2013 Source: Owusu, Stephen Atta

When massive corruption engulfs all the arms of government, when the prices of food and services go up so high, when increase in taxes become so unbearable and when the president of a country becomes so ineffective, the citizens resort to civil disobedience or positively defy the government in power. Civil disobedience is the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines as a peaceful form of political protest. It is a public non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. Civil Disobedience is closely linked to Positive defiance. Positive defiance is when one becomes bold and stands up against bad policies of leaders without malice. Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings positively defied the Limann administration and overthrew him in a revolution on June 4th 1979. It is the assumption of many concerned Ghanaians that the poor governance going on in Ghana, the massive corruption and the lacklustre performance of the Mahama-led government, calls for civil disobedience and positive defiance.

Mr. Attik Mohammed, a policy analyst of People's National Congress (PNC) is urging Ghanaians to positively defy the insensitive Mahama-led administration. He believes that is the only language the government understands. Positive defiance is one of the principles of Rawlings' June 4th revolution. Civil disobedience and positive defiance should be employed to demand accountability from the ruling party.

A great chunk of Ghana's financial resources have wrongly been paid to certain individuals and companies as judgement debts. The Auditor General's Department, Public Accounts Committee and IOCO have met and they all agreed that Waterville, Woyome and others must refund all the monies that are wrongly paid to them. The President did not comply with the findings but he is setting up another Committee of enquiry. Many believe it is just to cover up the dubious acts. Anas Aremeyaw Anas acted as an undercover agent and went to the Tema harbor. He took secret videos of massive corruption going on at the harbour by custom officers. The video was presented to the late President Mills, but up till today not even a single officer was sacked. Meanwhile custom duties have risen sharply. Previously a Nissan Almera, that was between ten to thirteen years cost around €600 to €800 in Europe. When such a car got to Ghana it attracted €1600. With the increase in duty now, that same car will cost around €2700. You realize that the penalty charged for sending a car which is more than ten years has also increased.The government continues to frustrate Ghanaians abroad. The demonstration by the Movement of United Ghanaians Abroad (MUGA), to protest against increased tariffs in Ghana throughout Europe and America is a reflection of the hardship and frustration that have engulfed every Ghanaian both at home and abroad. Concerned agents and local importers are also planning a similar demonstration in Ghana. The attempt to demonstrate was foiled by the police with the explanation that no permit was sought for the demonstration.

The Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) has been a source of worry to all Ghanaians. A lot of fraud and corruption went on and continues to go on at GNPC. According to K.T. Hammond, the deputy Minister of Energy under the NPP administration, the sale of the GNPC Drill ship was as a result of incompetence of Tsatsu Tsikata's GNPC at that time. According to K.T Hammond, the sale was to compromise a suit that had been taken against GNPC and the government by Société Générale. The corruption and the reckless sale of the Drill ship was enough to land the ex-GNPC boss in prison.

Since 1983 there has been a massive devaluation of the cedi. This move affected the financial position of many para-statal companies. The centre could not hold. Tema Shipyard and Drydock collapsed and all the workers were laid off. Many of them went to Singapore to join the ship building company there. Those who could not make it to Singapore are wallowing in hardship and desperation. One interesting thing is that the ships that are built with Ghanaian expertise are sold to Ghana. Why can't the government bring the Tema shipyard and dry-dock company back on its feet instead of selling it, so that those who were laid off could be re-employed? Ghana is bleeding. This notwithstanding, President Mahama still wants to engage in a selling spree. He is selling Bonsa tyre factory, Aboso Glass factory, State Fishing corporation, and all the Catering rest houses in the country. Ghanaians are angry. They consider the sale of state enterprises as senseless.

There is a consistent worry that the legislative assembly is ineffective. The minority will have their say but the majority in parliament will have their way. Due to the NDC's majority in parliament, the President cannot be impeached for poor performance. All good intentions by the Minority are dashed by popular Majority votes. Just a few days ago, the question of Value Added Tax (VAT) increase came to parliament. It was the wish of the Minority to stop the increase in the VAT but their hopes were dashed when the Majority voted for a 2.5% increase in the VAT. The Minority walked out of parliament in protest against the increase. With such increases in VAT and other taxes, the government has increased the hardship of Ghanaians and what everyone fears to happen is looming large: civil disobedience.

The unreasonably high level of government spending has brought about these increases in taxes, electricity and water bills. Mahama spent ghc600,000 to support his budget without any approval from parliament. Finance Minister Seth Terkper has even conceded that government spending is likely to exceed the limits which it set in the 2013 budget. About eighty people are appointed to ministerial positions. Huge amounts are spent on each minister. At the presidency alone, 661 people are appointed for various duties in what has widely been referred to by many as "jobs for the boys". The figure is alarming. Some of these are responsible for tea cups. Many jobs are mere duplication. There are those employed as sanitary workers and others are called cleaners. Can someone tell me the difference between the two job descriptions? Sheer waste of money! The IMF, the European Union and the other International financial support agencies are watching with mixed feelings.

In such a loose system, it is not surprising that some ministers have bought lands and houses abroad. Why then should Victoria Hammah be sacked if she also wants to do what her fellow ministers have done and gone scot free? Yebedii keke. Infact if this reckless spending, financial mismanagement and plundering of state coffers are not checked, the extreme hardship brought on the average Ghanaian will spark off civil disobedience and positive defiance which will bring Ghana's economy to a halt, thus forcing the president to resign.

Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu

Author: Dark Faces At Crossroads

Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta