A culture of corruption and impunity is leaking through every level of the South African government, destroying the entire society and robbing citizens of an estimated R30 billion (about 10 billion USD) every year through abuse of the procurement system, former World Bank MD and academic-turned-politician Dr Mamphela Ramphele said last week in Johannesburg.
Ramphele, who is a leader of Agang, a newly formed political party, was addressing students at the Origins Centre of Wits University in Braamfontein.
Like any opposition politician would do during election time, the former student activist swiftly took a swipe at President Jacob Zuma for ‘outrageously’ spending more than R200 million (about 21 million USD) to revamp his ‘private palace’ in his birthplace of Nkandla in Kwazulu-Natal province.
Other outrageous examples of corruption and impunity Ramphele cited include, among others, irregular leases for police buildings and civil servants and their families doing business with the government who pays them a salary, and over 8 000 public servants in the Eastern Cape province found to be doing business with government.
“Let us be clear. These are not just bumps on the road to a better future,” she said. “These are not just the inevitable pains of a transitional period. They are the betrayal of the founding principles of our democracy. A betrayal of what our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers fought and died for,” she said.
The 65-year-old former medical doctor regretted that many people were too afraid to speak out against corruption and nepotism and call for change for fear of losing their social grants, government tenders, or put their public reputations and career opportunities at risk.
“Where is the sense of public outrage at how this corruption robs us of our future? Where are the voices calling out for urgent change? It is fear that keeps people silent, the same fear that Steve Biko said in 1971 was the determinant of South Africa’s politics.”
She also slammed the hypocritical attitude of the corporate leadership for keeping quiet when one of their own was attacked. She was referring to Nedbank chairman Reuel Khoza who was vehemently attacked and vilified by top ANC leaders, after he called the ANC leadership a ‘strange breed’ that needed to adhere to the institutions that underpin democracy.
“Our political leadership’s moral quotient is degenerating, and we are fast losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past,” Khoza said in April 2012. He was ridiculed the following day by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who branded him a failed businessman who failed to sell Nedbank and was wenturing into something he did not know and understand.
The ANC, which seems to be applying the politics of ‘those who are not with us are against us’, is seen to be ‘strangling’ everyone, including the media, who criticises its policies, calling them names such as counter-revolutionaries, enemies of democracy, among others.
Corruption and lack of transparency in South Africa have been rising over the past five years or so, as evidenced by the corruption index of Transparency International (TI)’s last five years reports.
Some critics believe the ruling ANC’s big push to have Parliament quickly enact the controversial Protection of Information Bill was an attempt to sweep the ‘evil deeds’ of the political and business elite under the carpet. In terms of this law, anyone journalist or ordinary citizen who publishes or distributes any classified information will be jailed for up to 25 years.
Photo by Chimp Reports. Dr Ramphele, Agang SA leader.