“[In the past] there was a principle and we would refuse money meant to control you or influence you. And we were able to do that,” he told the Cape Town Press Club.
“Today, you produce money and people, well, become different human beings. And I think we never actually prepared ourselves for that.”
Chikane, who was director general in the presidency from 1999 to June 2009, said comrades during apartheid were seen as “angels” rather than “demons”.
“[We] made a fundamental mistake that we thought the angels will remain angels when they get to government,” he said.
“One day I’m going to write a book about the fragility of democracy because I’ve found out how vulnerable democracy can be and how you can manipulate systems to produce certain outcomes.”
He said that without vigilance, the country was destined for a future where syndicates decided who was prosecuted and who was free from reproach.
Citizens should move away from becoming a lamenting generation which sat back and did nothing, and towards a people who thought of solutions and implemented them.
He cautioned those in power to move away from self-interest.
“The only way to ensure peace, stability and prosperity for all in the world… is the pursuit of common good of humanity. If it’s common good you won’t fight about it. If it’s about self-interest, you will fight about it.”
Chikane clarified that he did not believe the general membership of the African National Congress was corrupt.
“By definition, corruption benefits the few,” he said.
Chikane has published two books — “Eight Days in September” and “The Things that Could Not be Said From A(ids) to Z(imbabwe)”.
The first details the removal of Thabo Mbeki as president, while the latest gives his views on issues such as international diplomacy, HIV and Aids, and the Zimbabwe facilitation process.
Chikane was awarded the Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award on Wednesday evening for his latest book.
He denied claims that he was not a disciplined ANC member.
“Nobody has come to me and said you are wrong [about what you write].”