During the hard lockdown that lasted from the end of March until the end of May, several videos of alleged corrupt acts were circulated on social media.
In one instance, the person recording the video gives exact details, like the address of the local municipality councillor and his name as the contents of a truck are being offloaded. These were food parcels meant for the poor before government financial relief grants were introduced in response to the pandemic.
There was nothing done in response to such blatant corruption caught on video with all the evidence there for all to see.
The ANC offered a lame announcement to the effect that any of its councillors caught in food parcel looting would face the music. And that was it. Life went on as it always does.
The nation expected the corruption. The ruling party expected the corruption and when it happened as expected, it responded as it has always done: ineffectively.
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“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” Jessie Potter said these words over four decades ago, but they ring true with regards to corruption in SA today.
The country continues to be shocked by the levels of the scourge of corruption and the lack of shame with which it is being performed.
It would help this country to make one fundamental admission in the fight against corruption: it is a permanent feature of all levels of government. This is not to be confused with the racially laden accusation that “corruption is an ANC problem”, as if corruption was not at the centre of National Party governance pre-1994.
The simple admission that corruption cuts across all party-political lines, all races and all structures of government would be the equivalent of that very first step in all socially accepted recovery processes of behavioural change, the necessary acceptance that the problem exists.
The regularity with which the country has heard President Cyril Ramaphosa announce stop-gap measures to deal with one form of corruption or another is actually sickening and the populace has resorted to filtering it out.
The Commission of Inquiry into State Capture is but one of the many measures dealing with corruption at various state institutions. But with all these corruption-busting commissions in place, it is not abating. It simply continues and the latest announcement by the president to set up yet another structure to deal specifically with Covid-19 corruption will end exactly the same way the others did, with few, or no, results.
So, what is to be done? Firstly, an open acceptance by all that corruption is rampant. No ifs or buts or finger-pointing, just accepting that Nelson Mandela’s dream of “transparency to end inequality” remains just that, a dream with good intentions.
This admission or acceptance would then translate to government looking for ways of ensuring that every government plan or policy is designed with fighting graft in mind.
Instead of simply announcing a R500 billion Covid-19 economic relief plan, the president and his Cabinet should have foreseen that “tenderpreneurs” would be rubbing their hands with
glee at the thought of the looting orgy they were being invited to partake in.
A social media commentator asks this question: “If these thieves are so unscrupulous that they have used state funerals to steal money, why should we be surprised when they steal money from the poor during a pandemic?”
Mr President, begin with the end in mind: expect money to be stolen. Don’t wait to announce a commission, prevent the theft from happening.