Wed, 30 Sep 2020

show, corruption was woven inextricably into the fibre of apartheid South Africa. Further, the state has always been instrumentalised to serve whichever political elite occupies power (See this essential analysis from Moeletsi Mbeki).

But lest you think this is some relativist account of corruption in South Africa, a call to extend a sympathetic ear or go gently on its perpetrators, you would be wrong.

We are steaming mad at the corruption which is cutting our country out from under us and here is why we should be:

We are not, as is the case with Spain, the inheritors of some antiquated system of governance, hobbled under the weight of trying to make an outdated structure fit the complexities of modern life.

We came together, not in some distant past but in the very lifetimes of many of us in this country, to make a pact about our system of governance - a pact forged from agonising sorrow and suffering and translated in considered, deliberative reasoning.

That pact, our Constitution, has never been the destination; it has always been a map of how we get someplace better - from a land of deep inequality and desperate want to a country of peace, prosperity, plenty for everybody.

Corruption of the type we have seen in what is now referred to as our lost decade, and more recently during this period of pandemic, does not just mean our journey is diverted, it means we can't even really begin.

Corruption always rings heartlessly. But, it's hard to comprehend the type of callousness entailed by corruption relating to Covid-19 procurement.

Everyone involved has to know that for every inflated good or service procured, every kickback passed along, there are fewer funds available to purchase what are literally life-saving commodities - less personal protective equipment for frontline workers, fewer food parcels for those who are starving and destitute. Motorcycle sidecars rather than ambulances to get you to hospital in your hour of greatest need. In the balance of these corruptly awarded tenders hangs actual lives.

We are not unaccustomed to cruelty and callousness from our political class: Marikana, Life Esidimeni, the Estina/Vrede dairy scandal.

Blistering rage

More recently, a court order has had to be obtained to force the government to continue the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) under lockdown - for millions of school-going children the only access they have to a nutritious meal.

But corruption at this time, when so many ordinary South Africans are required to make such enormous sacrifices, means we come to see the political class not just as occasionally or aberrationally callous and cruel as regards our well-being, but as always so - our circumstances, however dire, assessed primarily as opportunity for financial gain for themselves.

We the governed cannot but feel rancour, mistrust, suspicion.

Our rage, even at social distance, is blistering - so blistering the ruling party now proposes the establishment of an investigating agency eerily like the Scorpions unit it once cheerily decapitated.

Make no mistake though, real action against the perpetrators of corruption needs no Scorpions-like establishment and the obvious delays entailed.

There are enough resources within the criminal justice system right now to take the action that is needed.

And there is always voluntary banishment... Good enough for kings.

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