By Justice Malala (The Times)
People take their example from corrupt leaders
A man becomes a ward councillor in a municipality. He is poor. Within three months he owns four minibus taxis and drives a big car.
How did he happen upon so much wealth so quickly? How can a municipal councillor who earns a modest salary afford such vast assets?
This is a true story. The man will prosper. He will not be investigated, arrested or face trial. No one informs on him. That is the way government works, people in his community say. He must eat while he can. Young people admire him and want to emulate him.
President Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe do not seem to appreciate the level of corruption in their party. It is not just bad, as they intimated in two different addresses last week. Their country is burning and their party will be destroyed unless something changes.
Corruption in the public service is so rife, so endemic, so all-pervasive, that ordinary South Africans regard it as the normal way of doing things. In the municipalities, virtually no tender is awarded without some politician’s or official’s relative, friend or business associate being in on the game. If they are not, a bribe is paid. In queues for government services, even when dealing with the police, bribes change hands as a matter of course.
Mantashe came close to the heart of the problem when he spoke to 500 ANC councillors in Ekurhuleni last week. He said the scramble for resources, political in-fighting and the awarding of “jobs to pals” had the potential to destroy the party.
“One of the biggest problems facing us as the movement today is the interaction between business interests and holding public office,” Mantashe said.
He spoke days after newspapers reported that a top-level ANC document had revealed how political infighting, corruption and nepotism within the party’s ranks had brought at least 25 municipalities in North West to the brink of collapse.
The ANC’s response to this dire situation? On Wednesday, Zuma stood up in Parliament and said he had asked Minister for Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi to “expedite” a “conflict of interest framework” and to send it to the Cabinet.
“The conflict of interest framework is meant to plug holes in public-service regulations,” Zuma said. “We will not tolerate or condone the abuse of public trust and public resources by any public official.”
This is what makes me want to weep in frustration.
The truth is that this country has no shortage of laws, rules and regulations . Zuma’s declaration that new frameworks and other mechanisms are being introduced is pretty much more of the same.
The first problem here is that the ANC needs to acknowledge that many of the people sitting in public office really believe that they are entitled to enrich themselves.
This is the culture.
If these individuals are not turning government business towards their own enterprises, or those they own through their relatives and friends, then they are taking bribes to pass business to certain businesses.
That culture starts at the top and permeates the whole system. Morality, values, have all disappeared. It is everyone for himself. That is why ministers believe they have a “right” to put extras in their official cars, such as television sets. It is the culture.
As Thabo Mbeki once put it, the voice in the politician’s ear bangs on: “Eat, eat, eat.”
And they do. And as they do, broader society says “Well, that is what is done.”
That is why so many people are turning to crime. The example is set by their political leaders, by the very same councillors who should be shepherding them on the path of law and order.
The culture is also perpetuated by the ANC’s continued blind pursuit of the “cadre deployment” policy. ANC leaders are largely deployed to take over municipalities where, once in power, service delivery takes a back seat as they engage in internal party battles.
They use government largesse to give their political backers business and to starve their opponents. But the businesses that they favour cannot deliver and so people suffer. The masses watch and say: “That is the way it is done.”
They too go off and steal, or ask for a bribe, or give one without a thought the consequences.
This is how the failed states of Nigeria, the DR Congo and others were born. The culture of bribery, lack of service delivery and impunity of public officials took hold. That is where we are headed unless something is done — soon.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
By Justice Malala (The Times)