Corruption not just ‘them’ thing, it hides among us

Where does corruption hide?
A typical ho-hum week in SA starts with the resignation of the country’s finance minister for lapses in judgment.
Mid-week there’s no slowing down as the grand bank heist report on the looting at VBS Bank hits the media spotlight. And, as a grand finale, it ends off on the Sunday with the country’s biggest newspaper announcing it is handing back all awards and prize money for three “ground-breaking” articles.
Stories that turn out to be the fabrications of crooks that duped the paper and cost countless good people their careers.
Corruption, it seems, is woven into the very fabric of our SA society. It’s become the norm, not the exception. Why?
If you listen to the DA it’s the lack of a competent police force and the failure of an incompetent government.
As you pass by the EFF soapbox you’ll hear it’s the fault of white monopoly capital. The general blames the ANC, Terror blames the ANC, everyone seems to blame the ANC.
Except, of course, the ANC. It blames apartheid. Publishers can’t keep up with new titles that (daily) unpack the looting. The Zondo commission on state capture, the Nugent commission into Sars and the auditor-general’s report all paint the same depressing picture – it’s a free-forall; the trough is long and the pigs just keep on coming.
Is there anyone who isn’t corrupt?
If you take a walk up to the moral high ground, you’ll find plenty who have pitched their tents there.
The top of the mountain is crowded and there’s no shortage of stone tablets proclaiming the truth, the only truth, and nothing but the truth.
On top of Mount Moral, it seems that “only” has replaced the “whole” truth.
Corruption, like land and like race, is fast becoming the realm of the “other”.
Not me, not my family, not my people.
Right-wing pundits blame drunken black communists or post-modern “libtards”.
Left-wing zealots blame white patriarchy or Neanderthal fascists. Elders blame the drug-enslaved youth.
The Luddites blame smartphones and the internet. Those of religious persuasion blame it on an external evil force.
Science fiction lives off the recurring battles with the dark side and the three-year-old with his hand in the cookie jar points his sugar-coated finger at his little sister.
The whole truth is this. Corruption is everywhere. Be it government, stateowned enterprises, sport, churches, non-profits, corporates, family businesses, banks, the judiciary and even the playground. It’s very much a human trait.
There’s no “other” in corruption; there’s only “us”. It hides among us. President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the next general election will take place before the end of May 2019.
The DA and the EFF have come out swinging, and are currently fighting over the corruption-busters movie rights.
The ANC is dusting off its Wakanda lycra suits as it struggles to find a 30-second sound bite of how the ANC will save SA from … the ANC.
Which of course makes it all very comfortable for the rest of us. All we have to do is join the queue, make our mark and hey presto – like the value of the rand, corruption will disappear into thin air.
Let’s be a little controversial. Corruption is not the problem. Like race, gender and land ownership, it’s a symptom.
And blame, while it salves the ego and motivates the troops, offers no solutions.
You can argue that the problem lies with the collapse of our societal infrastructure: schools, police, municipalities.
You could argue that it lies with the disintegration of societal values: discipline, honesty, life. That all it will take is renewing faith in a specific deity, electing a competent government and hiring honest people.
But it doesn’t explain why both the DA and the EFF have been hobbled by internal friction and allegations of corruption. Why the same ANC that chose Jacob Zuma (and protected him) then elected Ramaphosa – two very different leaders.
It doesn’t explain why two off-duty policewomen would jeopardise their careers by misrepresenting themselves to sneak into Pastor Timothy Omotoso’s trial. Why internationally renowned companies, such as KPMG, McKinsey and Bain (companies whose core business is trust), enabled the looting?
Is taking company pencils home any less corrupt than the R185bn Steinhoff’s shareholders believe Markus Jooste cost them – by comparison the 10year “state capture” feeding trough is also estimated at more than R100bn?
Is it corrupt to elect to your mayoral team a person convicted of assault, or to fire your own councillor without following due process?
As an ordinary citizen we can hide away in the routine of our daily lives. We can pretend that venting on social media or occupying pews on a Sunday makes a difference.
Or we can stop pretending. Pretending that the potential for corruption doesn’t lie within all of us; that it may not be our morals that have saved us, but simply that we’ve never been offered a brown bag that will solve our cash-flow problems. Corruption is a human creation.
Pigs may gorge themselves at the trough, but they don’t lie on their income tax returns.
We can also stop the “othering”. That it’s only “them” that do it.
When you’re standing at the braai and doing the “it’s those: whites/blacks/politicians/executives/bosses/workers”, just stop. Take a deep breath and enjoy what you have.
Then take the next seven months to make an informed choice. Listen to the politicians, feel free to write them all off as human, and then choose the team that most closely matches your values.
Put your mark next to the team whose leaders display character. Look for that party that understands why corruption is part of us and proposes wise systems to counter it, not blame.
If in doubt, choose the party that walks the talk, how does it deal with allegations of corruption within its own ranks?
Corruption isn’t the problem, hiding it is.

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