South Africa: The state of its Nation and its politics

FLAGGING POWER? The ANC secured 63% in the local government elections of 2011 and 53.91% in 2016.Picture: ANA Archive

South Africa is in the grip of the political season with electioneering being the norm of the day as we are bombarded by the media; television, social media, radio and the like partaking in this four-or-five-year bout of political grandstanding and season of promises. Then there are the election rallies and political skirmishes between political parties with the odd bout of fisticuffs or should one rather say chair throwing, thrown (pardon the pun) in the mix. As political parties start to outdo one another with the usual and over the top criticism of the other, putting blame for all the country’s ills; political, economic, social and even the lack of rainfall at the door of the other, that happens to be in power, often only by a slender majority.

We have thankfully been spared the floor-crossing shenanigans of years past when elected incumbents of a political party jumped ship after being offered a top-notch job at another political party or merely for being overlooked by his own party for a certain position…if that was not the height of political opportunism and self-serving interests at the expense of his/her electorate then one still has to be exposed to it. Betraying your constituency or political party in such a pathetic fashion really showed up the fibre and character of so many who hold political office in modern day politics. 

In this stakes South Africa is no different; self-aggrandizement, egoistic (think opening of Parlaiment and red carpet), delusional, personality cult etc. and something which is so aptly personified by the current American incumbent in the Oval Office. Thankfully we have been spared these shows of individual opportunism in South Africa with the enactment of legislation which stopped this political floor crossing practice. The exuding of these character traits by modern day politicians however have unfortunately blighted the noble political intentions of community upliftment and caring for those most vulnerable in society; the indigent, disabled, aged, youth and women, which public officials have been voted into office for. 

Today the propensity shown by politicians is rather to work in clandestine ways to undermine the concept of public good and the offices of political and public administration in a haste to amass wealth at an alarming rate, while in office. The current discourse in South Africa is solely focused on the grotesque amounts of the public purse which is going or has gone into the pockets of politicians in cahoots with their serves, the public servants and bureaucrats. 

Gone are the days where political office bearers only received a stipend or were only reimbursed for travel allowance and meeting attendance while serving their communities after hours while still holding a day job to boot. If we believe this narrative to be only that of the public service then we are similarly shocked with the way the private sector can hold its own in equal measure where graft and bribery are concerned; Steinhoff, Trillian, McKinsey…the list is extensive.

Corruption in politics and government in South Africa and the world at large has given politics a bad name. If you believe this article to be a scalding tirade of scolding politicians and political parties then one only has to look at the evidence of gross corruption and misconduct which go unpunished and unfettered, defying any logic. The only refrain coming from those supposed to look after the public’s interest, is that they have not been found guilty in a court of law. 

Where have the noble aims, once again, off recusing yourself from claims of involvement in dubious practices and where witnesses to your corruption, are numerous at commissions and public hearings. This tendency of continuing to remain in political office and be seemingly above the law creates a dangerous precedent to those followers and lower level officials who take your cue and afford themselves immunity to corrupt practices and of also being untouchable. 

This culture then permeates State organs, influence bureaucrats and even extend to those with a modicum of authority. Bribery or payments in clandestine methods becomes part of the new paradigm of the public service. Law Enforcement agencies (traffic officials, police etc), Security officers at payment points and Public Health Facilities, airline staff, government officials etc, the list becomes exhaustive, all start to get in on the act as they emulate their political masters. It becomes such a severe indictment on a society and country when corrupt practices become part of the prevalent culture within the public and private domain.

Even those with unscrupulous principles and akin to nefarious practices in amassing illicit wealth find this fertile ground and the climate conducive to circumvent the system. They find it easy to adopt bribery as a means of ensuring their illegal actions are not under the microscope of official legal scrutiny. Those who should protect and serve society from these shady characters and dodgy practices in upholding the law, are looking the other way and at worst start to get in on the act, in cahoots with those from the underworld. 

The law enforcement agencies, bar the few good men and women, start to become complicit and even act as the couriers for their criminal handlers, It is at this point where the rot has fully and truly set in. A surgeon could not have been so clinical in his methodology in how to completely break down the fibre and character of a law-abiding society as those from the criminal underworld, deftly supported by those with a darker agenda of self-enrichment. 

Whatever argument of a deeper malaise in South Africa is offered by some who specializes in errant human behavior, what cannot be overlooked is that this abnormal behavior is breaking society and this country apart. Corruption, bribery, looting, smuggling and all kinds of illegal practices are then not endemic anymore to such a society but rather an epidemic which is increasingly hard to eradicate.

And the electorate who put those political representatives there becomes increasingly frustrated and restless where the society shows symptomatic signs of political turmoil; burnings, uprisings etc and which point to signs of low-key revolutionary behavior. Official responses by government of lack of funds to claims of lack of service delivery by communities are all treated with contempt by societies who see evidence of large-scale plundering of the State’s coffers by elected representatives and bureaucrats.  

How can it be that there are no funds for basic services; community health centres, maintenance of schools, university fees, while unrestrained evidence of plundering of the State’s coffers are so blatant and obvious for all to see with each day bringing more shocking revelations. And this is not the preserve of one political party only but done in equal measure depending on the size and scope of the political party. It is even being done on the basis of levies, increases and costs where no viable answers can be afforded to the electorate for such spurious increases.

Let us hope this elections brings forth a political rejuvenation where a new breed of politicians arise that put the public good above themselves and the party, not one where the current malaise is experienced of one political party trying to outdo the other in the tender stakes. And will those for whom the stakes are highest allow themselves to perish for their past indiscretions, or are they going to let us reap the whirlwind by unleashing all types of mayhem upon the country. If things in South Africa continue the way it is going at the moment then it will not be long before the country is empty and someone has to put out the lights…but then again someone is already busy putting it out at the moment.

Sedick Crombie is a Media and Publicity Secretary for SARU SACOS Rugby Legends.