First it was the issue of Stella Sigcau, a former bantustan leader, who was implicated in corruption by Bantu Holomisa in the Transkei.
The accusation by Holomisa at the Truth And Reconciliation Commission was that Sigcau pocketed money corruptly, from the then casino magnate, Sol Kerzner.
The scandal that followed was Sarafina 2 that embroiled Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, by being complacent in the squandering of millions of public funds.
Sarafina 2 was followed by the arms deal that took years to be “investigated”.
In the Xhosa language there is a saying that goes like this, “inkqayi ingena ngentlontlo ”–a big thing starts small.
Sigcau was implicated for only R50 000, Sarafina 2 was said to have involved R13-million, while the arms deal is alleged to have involved bribery of officials through kickbacks.
The initial transgressions were always seen as mere rumblings of competitors, the liberal press, minority opposition parties and disgruntled comrades.
What people did not consider was the corrosive nature of corruption in a society.
As the leaders were sanitising one scandal after the other, the underground world was upping the stakes in the art of looting.
By the time the Nkandla scandal started, the public was already well programmed to accept certain levels of corruption or financial mismanagement of public resources as nothing exceptional, but a norm.
Those who were instrumental in leading our people to tolerate corruption were not aware of the long-term damaging effects of corruption. Corruption impedes development.
A country that is required to use sparingly every available cent, to reverse decades of socio-economic backlogs, cannot afford to tolerate corruption.
Corruption is making steady progress in dividing and polarising our society.
Serious fraud and commerce-related statutory offences are at record-breaking levels.
In the government, procurement and related corruption at all levels and at the parastatals are a norm.
Many other new crimes that were unfamiliar in South Africa are on the rise, such as drug trafficking, organised crime, street gangs, human trafficking, precious metal smuggling, serious and complex financial criminality.
Even some conservative elements of businesses, like banks and listed blue chip private companies, are also fleecing the population and the public purse, in all manner of ways.
One has to answer the question: why does crime flourish in a country that has a host of institutions with mandates of investigating and curbing these crimes?
They include the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the directorate for priority crime investigation (DPCI), which is made up of the special investigation unit (SIU), the public protector, the asset forfeiture unit (AFU), the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) and many others.
Despite this arsenal, the criminals are a few steps ahead of all of those state institutions.
The sophistication of South Africa’s criminal underworld seems even to outmanoeuvre the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
The ultimate penalty is going to be paid by the citizens once the police system collapses totally. We will see a reign of terror such as was prevalent in Uganda and other African countries.
Once the police force is totally overrun by criminals, then the politicians follow suit and run a tin pot dictatorship.
The dictators might fan internal strife and start cross-border wars as they try to deflect their weakness. Corruption is a risk to a nation’s territorial sovereignty.
The independence of the state is quickly lost to modernday mercenaries who carry briefcases and laptops, and dispossess the nation of its resources, without firing a shot.
Their only investment is to bribe the leaders and they run the country for them.
Shaazka Beyerle, a good friend of mine from the US, in her book published in 2014, Curtailing Corruption – People Power for Accountability & Justice, writes that the World Bank has identified corruption as one of the greatest obstacles to economic and social development.
She says graft undermines development by “distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends”.
According to Beyerle, corruption curtails efforts to fight poverty since it’s a constant obstacle for countries trying to bring about the political, economic, and social changes necessary for their development.
South Africans are better advised to fight the blight of corruption with every power at their disposal. Her diagnosis of corruption cannot be a parliamentary laughing matter.
Corruption is a serious contributor in the weakening of the state.
In a study of six conflict-ridden countries, Beyerle’s finding is that citizens named corruption, poverty, unemployment and inequality as the main drivers of violent strife.
One hope is that our people will stop the politicians from using stolen money to fund political violence to boost their political ambitions.
If our citizens do not stand up and speak out against corruption, our country will soon be a mirror image of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violent military bandits and foreign mercenaries are plundering the country’s valuable minerals.
In the 1980s, countries like The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and parts of Nigeria were tightly under the grip of bandits.
All of that collapse of the rule of law was facilitated by the tolerance of corruption.
Radical economic transformation must be preceded by radical behavioural change towards corruption. That is the only way to develop and to save South Africa.