WITH every new book that gets published on South Africa, the depth and reach of organised corruption and the capture of our country’s key institutions by all levels of corrupt state employees gets exposed.
And going by the extent of the rot, especially given that every new piece of information reveals more dots ostensibly leading to the office and, possibly, private homes of the President, our country is in serious trouble indeed.
There has also been a dizzying crescendo in the number of private messages received from ordinary citizens employed in various state institutions, tired of the theft and looking for assistance in the form of contact with credible, independent, crime investigative journalists, as well as other bodies.
The rot is deeper than we feared.
Given what we now know, it is naïve, at best, and careless, at worst, to continue citing the brilliant democratic institutions that were created in the early years of our democracy as possible and effective buffers between the well-being of our country and sure hell.
Most of those institutions are now empty shells. Either that, or that they’ve been deliberately repurposed after having been placed in the hands of highly incompetent, unethical, and corrupt political deployees whose sole role is to facilitate more theft from them. The prevalence of senior SOE executives in acting positions is also bad.
Acting CEOs, Acting Procurement Officers, acting SOE Board chairpersons, etc. are easily disposable weaklings placed in their positions to be at the beck and call of highly corrupt political masters. Some of these corrupt political masters have been showed to be linked to the Zupta state capture programme; others belong to other networks.
We have all been fooled. While we focused our attention on the mesmerising Zupta state capture, we allowed our attention to be diverted from other forms of theft and abuse of public resources. The far-reaching revelations in two recent books, the first – The President’s Keepers – by former journalist Jacques Pauw, and the second – How to steal a City – by former National Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism Director General, Crispian Olver, suffice to make one want to give up.
But giving up should never be an option. We have come far as a country and have achieved a lot, despite the darkness that has overshadowed our dream.
It is clear, there is very little chance of our country being pulled back from an increasingly sure precipice by the “crime investigating” Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority.
In any case, it will not happen while these two institutions and the office of the Public Protector remain captive, attached to leashes held by questionable characters appointed for the sole purpose of ensuring that the rogue forces acting against the interests of our country never get to see the inside of a prison.
Social Justice Organisations must be strengthened
All indications point to our hope residing in the “activism reloaded” of many former anti-apartheid activists who are now being recalled on a daily basis from near retirement by the worsening situation in the country. They and the plethora of mushrooming civil society formations concerned with social justice have to hold hands and help us look the beasts in the eyes.
But they cannot succeed if the rest of us continue to fail connecting the dots by allowing ourselves to be lied to through outdated “umzabalazo/struggle songs and dances” that ceased long ago to speak to the challenges of a modern day South Africa.
Organisations like Save South Africa, South Africa First, Corruption Watch, Social Justice Initiative, Amabungane investigative journalists, Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, and many others who do not depend on government funding and do not play by its increasingly questionable agenda, need to be strengthened because only they can help pull South Africa from the brink of total destruction by unsuitable leaders who only have their own narrow interests at heart.
We know that the bulk of foreign funding for civil society organisations dried-up in the mid-1990s when many agreed that, since apartheid had ended, funding should be channelled through official structures of the new democratic state. This might have made sense then because the country was led by a government that could be trusted to only act in the best interest of the people of South Africa. Sadly, this no longer seems to be the case.
The worsening socio-political and economic climate in South Africa calls for corporate South Africa, individuals with the means and other organisations that can afford to, to cast a fresh eye at social justice organisations as conduits that can be trusted to help the country push back against radical state capture, other forms of corruption, and the presence of ill-suited political deployees at the helm of key state institutions.
Failure to resource parallel avenues to ensure that South Africa is able to continue working for its citizens, while formal institutions remain captive, will lead to higher levels of social frustration and possible unrest. Were the latter to happen, South Africa’s prospects to grow an inclusive economy will remain a blinding chimera.
Without a globally attractive country brand, South Africa’s reputational climb back will remain steep and very long indeed.