It is perhaps necessary to wear non-racial and rainbow spectacles when addressing the corruption and mediocrity currently gripping South Africa. There is some evidence of the psychological damage caused by many years of colonialism and apartheid, especially on the black majority. This is a situation which looks like it will be around for a few generations to come, this even after 26 years of freedom and democracy.
There are also sprinklings of complaints about Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) as an empowerment vehicle for historically disadvantaged individuals. This is sometimes without appreciation of what the Afrikaner Economic Empowerment (AEE) sought to achieve as an economic intervention during the apartheid rule.
The apartheid Nationalist Party took the reign of government in 1948, this after years of colonial conquests, informal and isolated forms of racial discrimination. The divide and rule project in the form of the Bantustans also seems to have succeeded. There are a few amongst us who are nostalgic about the homelands era and reckon that development under the system was the best even for the black majority.
The Bantu Education Act,1953 introduced inferior education for the blacks while the separate development policy ensured that things like water, electricity and housing were also racialised.
Since it is women’s month, tribute goes to all women who fought for land rights and the apartheid government with all their might. One of these women is Mme Makwena Matlala, Acting Chieftainess of Matlala’s Location (Ga-Matlala) under the then Pietersburg District, Transvaal (now Polokwane, Limpopo).
Matlala was apparently banished to Pelindaba in 1950, later to King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, seemingly after she refused to go to Temba, Hammanskraal district (Transvaal, now Gauteng). In her own words “I, Makwena, will not go and stay in a house that I did not build, a house that I did not labour on and I will not leave my own house. Above all I do not intend to move from my home, as I have never been out of Matlala’s Reserve before.”
Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu coined the term “Rainbow Nation” at the advent of democracy in the country. As we ponder whether this will ever become a lived reality, the late Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire tells us in his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, that “real freedom entails freeing both the oppressor and oppressed.” This does not mean “change of positions or poles where the former oppressor becomes the oppressed.”
In order to move the country forward, the white populace need not put blinkers to the past injustices whilst the black population need to recognise that using apartheid as an excuse for mediocrity is not sustainable in the long run.
Fake news and the use of bots on social media to spread falsehood on massive farm murders among others, are not assisting in moving the country forward, especially in terms of race relations.
Amid the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a health crisis, it is disheartening to observe cases of people who are engaged in corrupt activities, especially in relation to provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).
It is time to walk the talk on corruption and hope is that the investigations by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) into PPE procurement will yield results and lead to successful prosecution. Commissions like the one currently listening to allegations of State Capture, whilst necessary they are taking away funds which could have been used to deliver quality services to citizens.
There is skepticism from the public and various non-governmental organisations to the government’s efforts to deal with corruption through an inter-ministerial committee set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate fraud and corruption related to PPE procurement in Covid-19 interventions. The committee is Chaired by Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.
On the flip side, setting the committee might be the clearest evidence of political will towards dealing with fraud and corruption! Whatever happens, it is clear that there is a need for “Khawuleza” to nip this cancer in the bud.
The economic system is such that the means of production is still in the hands of whites, especially the land and capital elements. Instead of real black economic empowerment, there are in most instances fronting or black economic empowerment (BEE) partnership used for mere point scoring in order to secure contracts. Government needs to clamp on this, lest for blacks as Paulo Freire wrote, it becomes a case of “The shadow of their former oppressor is still cast over them.”
If things continue like this, whites will continue to benefit thus have the bigger slice of the economy though they are in the minority. Are we witnessing continuation of the “Sehlare sa mosotho ke lekgowa” phenomenon!
In relation to corruption, while it is appreciated that South Africa is a secular state, the book of James 1:14 reminds us that “The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust.”
Professor Thuli Madonsela, chair in social justice at the law faculty at Stellenbosch University (SU) and former Public Protector’s words “Through life, I have learned that the most important critic whose judgement of my actions matters, is my conscience” should set an example as we confront corruption.
There were murmurs of discontent, perceived or real racial discrimination in the media voices and how it reported differently the Steinhoff accounting irregularities compared to the allegations of state capture, the Venda Building Society (VBS) Mutual bank heist or even the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) irregularities!
Corruption is not colour or race based, we therefore need to unite as a nation and isolate those who steal our resources, both the corrupter and corruptee regardless of their race. Racialisation of the fight against fraud and corruption will only lead to a doomed future.
Corruption, maladministration and mediocrity are crimes which are robbing us of scarce resources and must be fought with the same vigour that defeated apartheid.
There is no turning back, let us wear rainbow spectacles and unite against all those who want to take us back. A better South Africa, Africa and the world is within sight and in our hands.
Manamela is an author and social commentator, and Maubane is a public relations strategist and social commentator.