Root out rot from our institutions


Corruption seems to have an unbridled hold on our institutions and it is time we welcome any and all attempts to expose situations and people that have allowed it to fester. Mputhumi Nthabeni welcomes calls to investigate and reform institutions that have gone unchallenged.

In The Name Of God is Mercy Pope Francis cautions against the deadly dangers of corruption. He mentions the double life that corruption compels us to lead when it is elevated into a system. It becomes “a mental habit, a way of living. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviours” says Pope Francis.

Corruption in our country has become not just an act but a condition. A personal and social state in which those in power live in complacent denial of their own responsibility for the present rot in and of our state. This is because there’s hardly any accountability for wrongful actions committed.

Consider the latest instalment in SAs corruption chronicles. The grand scale looting of VBS Mutual Bank involving many politicians, even from opposition parties like the EFF who refer to themselves as corruption-busters.

The report into this saga by Advocate Terry Motau, The Greatest Bank Heist, reads like a spy novel. The disappearance of almost R2-billion over a period of eight years is the stuff of fiction. But it seems here the truth is far stranger than fiction.

We’re still reeling fresh from the revelations of the Gupta’s tea parties suffering their first casualty in the former minister of Finance, Mr Nhlanhla Nene. Many felt that we should have cut Nene some slack. Supposedly, he refused to hand them the nuclear deals they wanted and saved the country from a debt that would have spanned generations to come. Like Caesar’s wife, I believe that ministers shouldn’t be beyond reproach. I commend him for falling on his sword.

Strangely, I find myself thanking Zuma for his clumsy corruption skills and lack of white-collar sophistication. This resulted in the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture led by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo with its far-reaching and comprehensive scope. We have already seen how it is exposing the gangrene of corruption festering within the highest ranks of our politics.

It helps us to understand the wounded state of Zuma when he sang outside the Durban court earlier this year: “Ngijikelw’ ngabafobethu!” (it’s my brethren who turned against me!). I’m almost willing to bet that all members of his cabinet without exception had been to the Gupta’s for tea — including the incumbent president.

Hence I’m irritated but not surprised by the emerging voices calling for the commission to be dropped because it is a precious waste of state resources. All of a sudden? They’re only realising that now?

It is a strange thing for me to find myself betting on the side of Zuma, but I am. In proper Zulu: “Mazilime ziyetyeni!” (If the heavens cannot withhold the weight of truth let them fall!). This is not just about corruption but about creating a culture of accountability in this country.

All governments of the world are corrupt to some extent. The best ones are distinguished for having strong institutions of oversight and accountability. This is what we’ve lacked for a long time. It would be stupid to waste this opportunity by employing only half measures.

We must extend the scope of the Zondo Commission to look into the private and public deals that we have inherited from the apartheid regime.

For instance, the Guptas wanted 13% of coal supply to Eskom through their political connections. It would be naïve of us to pretend that doing business with the state through political networks started with the Guptas.

There are companies who have almost a monopoly in supplying Eskom with coal —some as much as 42%. How did they get these contracts? Why are companies like Bidvest almost the sole suppliers of anything related to SAA? We need to probe into these contracts.

Why were Mandela and Mbeki frequent visitors to Stellenbosch wine estates, owned by the Ruperts during the dawn of our democracy? We need these answers not only to expose wrong dealings but also to eliminate conspiracy theories where they exist.

Corruption is not limited to government.

The Catholic Church is and needs to continue to probe, investigate and cut off the gangrene of child sexual abuse that’s eating away at the once respected institution.

We’ve come to understand this atrocious scourge full well. We’ve lost any authority to speak freely on issues related to sexuality and morality. The loss of authority by governments and religion are what leads people to the path of irrational emotionalism, otherwise known as the fanaticism of fascism. Could this be why right-wing conservativism is on the rise everywhere?

It is not enough to just confess wrongdoing. The demands of justice require that we repent by restoring things to their proper order. It demands that our laws take effect. You don’t achieve this by keeping to the company that made you sin or by doing the same things that led you to wrong. You change your ways by actions and not just words.

This is why I fully support and endorse an in-depth and comprehensive probe into the rottenness of all of our institutions. We would hope that after weathering the necessary destruction of old stalwarts we will still find people of integrity, vision and moral courage capable of leading us out of this barren desert to more promising lands.

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* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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