We are becoming even more of a gangster’s paradise

Deputy President Paul Mashatile
Deputy President Paul Mashatile
Image: Alaister Russell

There is a price to be paid every time our leaders sit on their hands and fail to act decisively, vocally and openly against corruption.

We saw it clearly last week when Transparency International released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index report.

SA fell into the category of “flawed democracies” as it slid down the rankings and recorded its lowest ever score of 41.

The report gives nations a score from 0 to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is squeaky clean.

Flawed as the report is (it is a measure of perceptions, after all), that score of 41 should set off red lights everywhere: our troubles are deepening.

Non-democratic regimes have an average score of 32 on the index while full democracies record an average of 73. 

Flawed democracies, where we now sit, average 48.

We are headed to the non-democratic regimes belt unless we do something — fast.

The perception that we are a corrupt nation will not go away because ordinary South Africans also know that this is the truth of our lives.

Most traffic stops by our police are nothing but attempts to shake down motorists, for example. But that is the small stuff. Look at the top.

The recurring stories about deputy president Paul Mashatile’s patronage network are a case in point.

For more than a year now, News24 has doggedly revealed how Mashatile’s tentacles have seen government tenders handed out to his son-in-law, children, relatives, ANC donors close to him and others — while he has essentially been rewarded with the use of luxury properties in Johannesburg and Cape Town, plus other benefits.

How can the ANC continue to pretend that it cares about corruption when its deputy president — and potentially the country’s president — is mired in so much scandal?

The latest charges against Mashatile deserve a response. The nation deserves an explanation.

Yet, it hasn’t got one from the ANC and it won’t get it.

The ANC is treating its current leaders the way it treated its previous, corrupt, leader.

As ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula told us recently, the party protected the corruption-accused Jacob Zuma in the 2010s to the extent of even misleading parliament.

“We went to parliament and opened an ad hoc committee and said a swimming pool is a fire pool.

“The [then] police minister [Nathi Nhleko] was sweating, seeing that this was a lie, because it is difficult to explain lies.

“People have lost their careers because of that thing,” he said.

That was then. Now, the Mashatile allegations are similarly not being addressed decisively, openly and speedily.

These things matter and they add to the perceptions that we are a corrupt nation.

The consequences are that every pre-investment report that any serious company undertakes will state that we are falling in the anti-corruption indices and that we are becoming even more of a gangster’s paradise than we have been in the past.

When you see factories standing empty in Coega or Babelegi or Rosslyn or any other industrial area in SA don’t be surprised: business has fled, and new business has not come in.

No-one except a criminal wants to invest in a place where they are going to be asked for a bribe all the time.

In this corrupt state, jobs are not created, children don’t go to schools, communities turn to drugs and crime, and the society slowly but surely descends into chaos and violence, anarchy and destruction.

We are already living that reality in places like Diepsloot, where there is no law, where ordinary citizens have become their own judge, jury and executioner.

Why? The SA Police Service is incapable of protecting them — and the politicians don’t care.

In Pretoria, criminals are dealt with by an unknown gunman popularly named John Wick, a vigilante.

Selby Bokaba, a long-standing and upstanding civil servant, former journalist and former SA Police Services bureaucrat, tweeted this week: “Contract killing has become a flourishing enterprise in [SA]. It has been ‘imported’ from KZN to GP. It’s rife in Pretoria.

“While some people hone their skills in accounting, engineering, science, journalism, etc, others become extraordinary in killing prominent & non-violent people.”

Scour social media and show me a politician in power speaking up like Bokaba about this.

They don’t. They are sitting on their hands. They are part of the problem.

Who will invest in a place like this, where we are inured to corruption and contract killings?

Does anyone even remember that a Rand Water senior executive was shot dead last week while handing out school attire to poor kids?

A water official? Executives in electricity, mining, construction, logistics and other fields now live with bodyguards all the time because they have tried to fight corruption.

I’m not telling you anything new when I say corruption is out of control in our country.

You know it as a citizen because you, too, see the rot every day.

Our leaders continue to sit on their hands. Cry, the beloved country.


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