At the opening of parliament in Cape Town in February 1999, Nelson Mandela made an astute comment: “Our hope for the future depends also on our resolution as a nation in dealing with the scourge of corruption. Success will require an acceptance that, in many respects, we are a sick society.”
Even then, as state president and with the accolade of liberator, he was acutely aware the hard-won gains of the struggle against apartheid could be eroded by the cancer of corruption.
That is what makes the public protector’s revelation this week – that the Eastern Cape government improperly diverted R300 million from a development fund to pay for the Mandela funeral ceremonies – so shocking. The death and the final steps down Madiba’s long road were, for many greedy money-grubbers in that province, an opportunity to score.
Madiba himself, who once said all he wanted for people to remember him was a simple stone engraved with the word “Mandela”, would have been appalled by what Luzuko Koti of the Nelson Mandela Foundation described as a “shameless act”.
The money was earmarked for the building of houses, schools, clinics, water projects – all in a province which appears to be going backwards, before our very eyes, in terms of development.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa described those responsible as “those hyenas of the ANC in the Eastern Cape”… and we have to agree. Hyenas are known for scavenging on carcasses, and for attacking the defenceless. However, we cannot malign them for that; it is instinct for them.
Theft, and profiteering from such a solemn occasion as the funeral of a national icon, should not be instinctive … because if indeed such behaviour was natural for the Eastern Cape cadres, then we are glad Madiba was not around to witness just how sick our society has become.