Widespread corruption by those in positions of authority and the cavalier and disdainful manner in which it seems to be committed is obviously depressing. But even more distressing is the fact that the public doesn’t seem to care that much anymore.
Photo: Flickr, Michael Wuertenberg.
We shrug our shoulders and carry on with our lives. It's normal. We've got used to the plunder of the country's resources by people entrusted with our wellbeing. Our trust is being betrayed. Our faith in our system of government is being tested to the limit. We lived under the illusion, indeed were sustained by the belief, that once apartheid had ended we could begin with the gratifying project of putting in place all those plans we had nursed and carried in our hearts. What we're witnessing is not the nurturing fulfilment of our dreams, but a betrayal - a looting spree on a scale that even apartheid would have been hard-pressed to equal. The disillusionment is palpable, universal and overwhelming. That the culprits are the purported torchbearers of that dream makes it doubly painful.
The audacious heist pulled off by Jacob Zuma in abusing millions of taxpayers' money to feather his own nest in Nkandla, amid the widespread poverty in the land, is as spectacular as it is daring. It simply boggles the mind. Breathtaking. But we should have known. We walked into this with our eyes wide open. As Barney Pityana so eloquently put it recently, we've got nobody but ourselves to blame. After all we put the fox in charge of the hen house.
The whole debauchery points to a lack of principles or values. We'd naively thought that the "struggle" or the "movement" would have taken care of that; that it would be the anvil to forge and chisel upright men and women, dedicated to no other mission than serving the greater good of their people.
Zuma, who only a few years ago was so pleased beyond words to receive a few hundred rand in a brown envelope from Schabir Shaik, now fritters away R230m of state resources without a care in the world. He either doesn't understand the value of money, especially that which is entrusted to him, or he thinks it grows on trees. Even more upsetting is that he doesn't see the need to explain himself.
He's left that job to the windbaggish Thulas Nxesi, whose response has been to loudly tell taxpayers to pay up and shut up. Public works is a cesspool of corruption. It has claimed a few notable scalps - former ministers Stella Sigcau and Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and ex-police commissioner Bheki Cele. They were all ensnared in its honey.
Nxesi was supposed to clean it up. He obviously sees his role as sweeping everything under the carpet.
One has to ask, though, how the Nkandla lucre was able to escape the tight clutches of national treasury. Were they fast asleep or did they simply look the other way? Corruption is dishonesty, but it's also about a breach of trust. Trust in this government to do the right thing is waning. Like when treasury says it doesn't have the money for e-tolls but can funnel billions to SAA without batting an eyelid. Priorities, priorities.
But a fish, they say, rots from the head down. Zuma has neither the inclination nor the temperament to fight corruption. He's the symbol and purveyor of the scourge. Those around him are merely the shovel brigade, cleaning and covering up the mess.
The killing of the Scorpions, Zuma's nemesis, was the turning point. It heralded an open season for corruption. On taking office, Zuma moved quickly to remove any threat to his position. Every decision or appointment he makes is calculated to cover his back.
Solving any problem essentially requires the tackling or the removal of its source. It is, however, a solution to which the electors of Mangaung currently seem oblivious.