Yes, there was bribery and corruption, both government and corporate, in the apartheid era. And, yes, corruption is a problem in most countries. And, yes, it seems the rich, even the very rich are as prone to corruption as the poor. But, no, this one’s not a function of world recession and unemployment: bribery and corruption are crimes that are, almost by definition, committed by those who have jobs and wield some power or authority.
Whatever excuses and explanations are offered, there’s no longer any denying it: South Africa is drowning in a sea of corruption. It’s everywhere: hospitals, police, schools, traffic officers, every state department, with Home Affairs, CIPC (previously Cipro), Public Works and Mineral Resources and Energy among the most visible. (Willie Hofmeyr tells Parliament’s select committee on Public Accounts that 20% of the state’s budget is now lost each year to corruption and incompetence.)
It’s never been as bad as this.
Corruption, it seems, is driven less by poverty, more by greed, a sense – or culture – of entitlement, and opportunity. The trend is set by those on top of the social and economic pile, rather than driven from the bottom by need.
In South Africa, those at the top – the powerful because of their wealth, their positions of political power – not only inspire corruption by example; they actively condone it – if only because they are themselves so compromised.
The available evidence suggests that corruption, the world over, and the attitude of greed and entitlement that go with it, may well be the major cause of the global recession. (Noseweek’s Goldman Sachs story The Glorious Recession in this issue, demonstrates the point.)
But before moving off the subject of apartheid, there is one sad possibility worth scrutiny: the syndrome of the abused becoming the abuser – so well expressed in the title of Michela Wrong’s book on corruption in Kenya: It’s Our Turn to Eat.
President Zuma is, at least on a balance of probabilities, guilty of having knowingly benefited from bribes paid in relation to the Arms Deal. He cannot possibly afford to call for a public enquiry into the origins of Julius Malema’s funds – when he still owes the public an explanation of his own. The entire ANC leadership structure is compromised by the arms deal. Some time back, to pre-empt having to deal with the matter before the Constitutional Court at a hearing set down for November, President Zuma announced that he would be appointing a judicial enquiry into the Arms deal “within two weeks”. More than a month has since passed and all we get is frozen silence. Maybe he’s now confident that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng can tip the vote in his favour on the ConCourt bench?
The Public Protector’s findings regarding the leases worth hundreds of millions that were “irregularly” awarded by the Ministers of Police and Public Works have similarly still to be addressed.
Our cover story Drowning by numbers offers a possible explanation.
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