In years to come, when you look back, will you be able honestly to say you did the right thing in 2016? Or will you be ashamed? Did you side with those trying to make the country better for all, or with the greedy ones who seek to grab as much as possible? Are you a passenger on the gravy train? Or did you do nothing but watch, as if this were merely a passing show?
For those who follow political events, there is a tangible sense that a showdown is looming. Stripped of obfuscatory ideological jargon, it is an archetypal clash between good and evil. That classification may seem too simple but it contains truths.
Those people who use devious means to remove billions of rands from the public purse are robbing the poor. The effects of their actions, the prolonged sufferings they inflict upon the most needy, are evil.
Exact calculations would be impossible, but millions of people have been deprived of opportunities for shelter, basic services, plus health and education facilities, by the massive corruption that is under way. Whether it is suitcases stuffed with cash being delivered to Dubai, or R6.8 billion of transactions labelled suspicious by the Financial Intelligence Centre, the nation’s common wealth is being siphoned off.
The perpetrators already have more than enough to look after their families in perpetuity, but there is no end to their avarice. Truly, the love of money is the root of all evil. If, as the song tells us, Heaven is a place on earth, so too is hell.
To be trapped in poverty, to be one of this country’s countless homeless people, to be without hope – that is a kind of hell. As crunch time approaches, it is exhilarating to observe the courage of those standing up to the powerful looters.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, for instance, is fully aware of the forces ranged against him. Yet he will be in parliament today to deliver a medium-term budget policy statement carefully balancing competing interests to keep SA’s finances afloat.
Unlike those who selfishly engage in “state Gupture”, Gordhan serves the greater good. Unlike President Jacob Zuma, who has yet to be cleared of fraud and corruption, Gordhan did not and could not benefit personally from the circumstances which led to charges against him.
Jackson Mthembu is another who understands the possible consequences of his stance against what he knows to be wrong. Indeed, by the time you read this, Mthembu may no longer be ANC chief whip. There may be financial implications for him.
The morally dubious Hawks may start harassing him, but his conscience will be clear. He did the right thing. Kudos must also go to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for backing Gordhan. Such leadership emboldens others to step forward. The 80-plus CEOs who pledged support for Gordhan added to the groundswell.
Eighteenth-century British parliamentarian Edmund Burke knew: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”