National Peace Disruption: This Is a Nation of Thieves
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 1 May 2023
22 Apr 2023 – The Ten Commandments, as a divine scripture in Judaism, was revealed to Prophet Moshe as painted by a Dutch artist Aron de Chavez in 1675. The commandment “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15) is the eighth or seventh commandment in the Decalogue, depending on the tradition. It forbids taking or keeping another person’s property without permission, as well as other forms of injustice and dishonesty regarding earthly goods and the fruits of labor. It also implies a positive duty to give rather than get, and to live in communion with God and neighbor. The Hebrew word for steal in this commandment can also mean to deceive or carry away. The eighth commandment in the Bible’s Old Testament is “Thou shalt not steal.” It is one of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, as recorded in the book of Exodus. The commandment prohibits taking someone else’s property without permission, and also encompasses acts such as fraud, embezzlement, and extortion. However, this rule designed to prescribe human behavior, is not only applicable to all universal religious beliefs and cultures, but to all civil societies, globally and forms the very foundation of ethical and cultured behavioural patterns of all humans. Transgression of this basis rule of conduct is unacceptable and indeed punishable by law not only in the biblical times, but also in the modern society. This is certainly not the case in present day South Africa, where corruption at the highest levels of government prevails, with no accountability, nor any punishment in return for blatant and proven transgression of the commandment.
Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, was a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement and a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It is appropriate to quote Carmichael, as the central theme of this paper “This country is a nation of thieves. It stole everything it has, beginning with black people. The U.S. cannot justify its existence as the policeman of the world any longer. I do not want to be a part of the American pie. The American pie means raping South Africa, beating Vietnam, beating South America, raping the Philippines, raping every country you’ve been in. I don’t want any of your blood money. I don’t want to be part of that system. We must question whether or not we want this country to continue being the wealthiest country in the world at the price of raping everybody else.” While as a Black person, the quote was in the context of United States, it appears that Carmichael was a prophesier, and coined the term “This is a nation of thieves”, noting that he died in 1998 and his quotes are even true today as well as applicable, in global context in general, but in South Africa, in particular, especially post freedom since 1994. It can be said that South African politicians not only achieved freedom from the oppressive apartheid, white regime but also freedom to steal in the broadest sense of the term, as unearthed by the numerous scandals that have rocked the present government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who himself is implicated in the Phala Phala Scandal. The Phala Phala farm scandal is a controversy involving South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and a burglary of his private game farm in Limpopo in February 20201. A former intelligence chief and ally of Ramaphosa’s rival Jacob Zuma claimed that the thieves found and stole millions of dollars in foreign cash hidden in furniture. Ramaphosa denied any wrongdoing and challenged a parliamentary report that accused him of serious misconduct. The media dubbed it the “farmgate” scandal. While the term “a nation of thieves” has been used by various individuals and media outlets to describe corruption in South Africa, it is important to note that the term was recorded as being first coined by a Black person, Carmichael and is now applicable to South Africa.
At this point it is also necessary to review the brief political history of South Africa since 1994, whereby we now have the fourth democratically elected president. The first was President Mandela, followed by President Thabo Mbeki, who was asked to “step down”. Thabo Mbeki resigned as President of South Africa on September 21, 2008, following a recall by the African National Congress, to be succeeded By President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, who was forced to resign on February 14, 2018 and presently the country’s helm is under the control of President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.
Wednesday, the 27th of April 1994 is an important day in South African history because it was the day of the country’s first democratic, non-racial elections. These elections marked the end of apartheid, a system of institutionalised racial segregation and systemic discrimination based on the colour of the human skin, that had been in place in South Africa since 1948, under the White, minority Nationalist government. The elections were the result of lengthy negotiations between the members of the White, apartheid government, led by the last, White President of South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk and the African National Congress (ANC), led by political activities and Robben Island detainee, Nelson Mandela, and other political parties. Nelson Mandela spent a total of 27 years in prison, including 18 years on Robben Island. He was imprisoned on Robben Island on June 13, 1964, and was released on February 11, 1990.
Freedom Day, as it is known in South Africa, is celebrated annually to commemorate the country’s transition to democracy and to recognize the struggles and sacrifices made by those who fought against apartheid. It is a public holiday in South Africa and is marked by various ceremonies, cultural events, and celebrations across the country.
This publication, honours the Freedom Day in South Africa and traces the social rise and functional evolution of South Africa, post 1994. While Madiba is famous globally, it is also relevant to review the other stalwarts of anti-apartheid resistance and list further quotes of Carmichael, in this context, highlighting some parallels between the suffering of the African Americans and the Blacks in South Africa, at the time. Stokely Carmichael, also known as Kwame Ture, was a prominent civil rights activist in the United States during the 1960s. He was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1941 and moved to the United States in 1952. Carmichael became involved in civil rights activism while attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., and became a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1966.
Carmichael is perhaps best known for coining the phrase “Black Power,” which became a rallying cry for many Black Americans during the civil rights movement. He believed that Black people should reject the idea of assimilating into White American culture and instead celebrate their own cultural identity and work towards building their own political and economic power. His other quotes, relevant to countries wherever there is human discrimination are listed as:
- “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.”
- “The only way we’re going to stop racism is to stop participating in it.”
- “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”
- “I have always been a man who wanted to be free so that I could do what I thought was right.”
- “We are tired of these ships that come to our country, loaded with goods, but leave with our wealth.”
- “The secret of life is to have no fear; it’s the only way to function.”
- “The first need of a free people is to define their own terms.”
- “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
- “In order to change the system, you have to be in the system.”
- “We have to stop being ashamed of being black. A tall order.”
- “I’m not going to allow anybody to make me change my personality.”
- “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”
- “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
- “What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”
- “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”
- “I don’t think there’s any such thing as a good pig… police brutality is increasing daily and people are getting tired of it. There’s no reason why black people should go around trying to reform a system that is criminal in its nature.”
- “We are trying to build a movement which has for its ultimate goal the realization of a society of equals… The first step that we make in the movement is to recognize that we have been brainwashed.”
- “You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.”
- “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”
- “We have to stop being ashamed of being black. A broad nose, thick lips, and nappy hair is us and we are going to call that beautiful whether they like it or not.”
- “The only way we’re going to stop racism is to stop talking about it. It doesn’t exist anymore. It’s time to stop complaining about racism and start doing something about it.”
- “The secret of life is to have no fear; it’s the only way to function.”
- “The point of nonviolence is to build a strong new floor beneath which a society that refuses to force injustice can stand.”
- “If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude; it’s a question of power.”
- “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.”
- “We are tired of these stalemate talks which allow us to think we are making progress when we are not. We are tired of being turned away from restaurants, denied jobs, and excluded from political participation. We are tired of being lynched, brutalized, and murdered with impunity.”
- “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
- “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.”
- “We must make our own future, we cannot depend on the government to make it for us. We must create programs that will lift us up, that will help us grow, that will help us achieve.”
However, the quote that is often attributed to Carmichael is: “This country is a nation of thieves. It stole everything it has, beginning with black people.” This quote is from a speech he gave in 1968 at the University of California, Berkeley, and is famous. Carmichael’s quotes are still relevant today, and his insights into issues of race, power, and inequality are widely respected. They provide a basis for the historical context of an analysis of the current situation in a major Black country, like South Africa and to support the arguments about rampant corruption and not only paucity but almost total lack of social justice in South Africa. The late, Emeritus Bishop Tutu was known for his strong stance against corruption and injustice in South Africa, and he has spoken out on numerous occasions about the need for accountability and transparency in government and society.
Stokely Carmichael and Steve Biko were both prominent figures in the Black Power and anti-apartheid movements, but they approached the struggle for equality and liberation in different ways. Carmichael advocated for a more militant approach to achieving racial equality. Carmichael believed in self-defense and self-determination for Black people, and was critical of nonviolent resistance and integrationist approaches. Steve Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist and founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960s’ and 1970s’. Biko believed in empowering Black people to take control of their own destinies and challenging the psychological effects of apartheid. He emphasized the importance of self-reliance, cultural pride, and unity among Black people in South Africa. Biko’s ideas were influential in inspiring resistance to apartheid and shaping post-apartheid South Africa. Stokely Carmichael like Biko, was harassed by the police in the United States. As an activist in the Civil Rights Movement and later as a leader in the Black Power movement, Carmichael was arrested numerous times during protests and demonstrations. He was also targeted by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which sought to disrupt and neutralize political organizations and activists deemed a threat to the national security of United States of America.
While Carmichael and Biko shared a commitment to the liberation of Black people from systemic oppression, their approaches differed. Carmichael advocated for a more confrontational, militant approach to resistance, while Biko emphasized building self-confidence and solidarity among Black people to challenge the psychological effects of apartheid. Both were important figures in the struggle for Black liberation, but their legacies and ideologies remain distinct. Stokely Carmichael passed away on 15th November 1998, in Conakry, Guinea, at the age of 57. The cause of his death was prostate cancer, which he had been battling for some time. Stephen Bantu Biko died at the age of 30 and was murdered by the South African Security Police as numerous other activists, like Dr Neil Hudson, Imam Abdullah Haroun, Ahmed Timol and many others, who are totally unknown today. The point is that these liberationists, terminated in their prime of youth, lost their lives in vain, to give way to an elite group of Blacks who are now involved in nefarious activities, including murder of individuals who disagree with them or are in competition with them in terms of political appointments, as well as elimination of whistleblowers, and having South Africa classified as a “Nation of Thieves”. Soon the classification will be expanded to “A Nation of Thieves and Murderers” Their criminal activities are absolutely against the vision and philosophy of Mandela and many other stalwarts of the struggle against apartheid, since 1948 until 1994, when freedom was achieved. While freedom from oppression and discrimination has been achieved, there is however, no freedom from crime, ranging from petty theft, to grand scale corruption, involving billions of Rands of state funds, depriving the masses of fundamental human rights in South Africa, and lack of basic service delivery at multiple levels throughout South Africa. As a confirmation of these corruptive activities prevalent in South Africa, the South African Revenue Services has confirmed that over 400 South Africans have been named as persons of interest in the leaked, so-called Pandora and Panama Papers.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as “Madiba” like Gandhi as “Mahatma”, was inaugurated as the first Black democratically elected President of South Africa on Tuesday, 10th May, 1994. The inauguration took place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa. Both the statesmen, Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts to peacefully end the apartheid regime in South Africa and establish a democratic and multiracial government. The prize was awarded on 15th October 1993, just one year before South Africa’s first democratic elections, in which Mandela was elected as the country’s first black president. The Nobel Committee recognized their work in achieving a peaceful transition of power and bringing an end to decades of racial segregation and oppression.
Corruption in South Africa has multiple root causes, which can vary depending on the specific context and case. However, some common underlying factors that contribute to corruption in South Africa include:
- Weak governance and institutions: The country’s governance and institutional framework is often characterized by weak enforcement of laws, inadequate checks and balances, and limited accountability mechanisms. This provides fertile ground for corruption to flourish, particularly at the highest levels of government.
- Economic inequality: South Africa has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world. This inequality can create an environment in which corruption thrives, as those with power and access to resources can use their position to enrich themselves and their associates at the expense of the broader population.
- Historical legacy: The country’s history of apartheid and colonialism has left deep scars and has created a legacy of unequal access to resources and opportunities. This has created a sense of entitlement among some elites, who see corruption as a way of redressing historical injustices.
- Political culture: There is a pervasive culture of impunity in South Africa, in which those in power are often able to act with impunity and avoid accountability for their actions. This creates an environment in which corruption can thrive, as those in power believe they will not face consequences for their actions.
- Lack of transparency: The lack of transparency in government operations and decision-making processes makes it difficult for citizens and civil society to monitor and hold government officials accountable. This lack of transparency also makes it easier for corrupt practices to go unnoticed and unpunished.
The root causes of corruption in South Africa are complex and interconnected. Addressing them will require a comprehensive and sustained effort that involves strengthening governance and institutional frameworks, addressing economic inequality, promoting transparency and accountability, and changing the political culture of impunity.
In discussing corruption in South Africa, the following forms of nefarious activities, primarily motivated for acquisition and amassing of personal funds in South Africa, under a Democratic, Black Government Post-1994, may be categorized :-
- Grand corruption
- Petty corruption
- State capture
- Nepotism and cronyism
- “Tenderpreneurs” and Procurement Fraud
A selected list of major case studies of corruption in South Africa Under a Democratic Black Government Post-1994, include the following
- Arms Deal Scandal
- Travelgate Scandal
- Nkandla Scandal
- “The Zondo Commission” :State Capture Inquiry: “Guptagate”
- VBS Mutual Bank Scandal
- Eskom Scandal and Load shedding
- Phala Phala, Farmgate Scandal
While it is impossible to list the details of the different, major corruption scandals, it is necessary to highlight the major misdemeanours by the government, as follows:-
The Zondo Commission, officially known as the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, was established in South Africa in 2018 to investigate allegations of corruption and state capture during the tenure of former President Jacob Zuma. The commission was headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and has been ongoing for several years.
The commission has heard testimony from a wide range of witnesses, including former government officials, business leaders, and members of civil society. Many of the testimonies have been explosive, revealing corrupt practices and extensive networks of patronage and influence.
Some of the key findings and revelations of the commission include:
- Evidence of widespread corruption and looting of state-owned enterprises, particularly under the tenure of former President Jacob Zuma.
- Allegations of extensive networks of patronage and influence, with politically connected individuals using their positions for personal gain and to advance the interests of private companies.
- Evidence of political interference in law enforcement agencies and the justice system, with key appointments made for political reasons rather than on merit.
- Allegations of extensive bribery and corruption in the awarding of government contracts and tenders, with companies paying large sums of money to politically connected individuals in order to secure contracts.
- Evidence of the capture of key state institutions, including the South African Revenue Service, it Commissioner, the National Assets Airport Authority and the National Prosecuting Authority.
Further damning evidence in the report can be summarised as follows:-
The Zondo Commission has so far released four reports comprising 12 volumes that focus on the efforts of former president Jacob Zuma, the Guptas, and associates to capture the state and its entities. The affected institutions and entities are the National Treasury, Transnet, the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the South African Airways (SAA) Group, Denel, and Eskom. Complicit parties to state capture include McKinsey, Regiments, Trillian, Bain, and EOH. Erstwhile ministers and heads of government departments, who served under the Zuma administration, as well as former executives and board members of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), are also implicated.
The economy took a R500bn ($31.9bn) knock in the aftermath of Zuma firing Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on 9 December 2015, according to National Treasury calculations submitted to the Zondo Commission. Bottom of Form
Furthermore, the move cost the country 1.1% of GDP while the economy shed 148,000 jobs and Johannesburg Stock Exchange market capitalisation suffered a R378bn reduction. On 8 December 2015, Nene, supported by senior Treasury officials, resisted signing a binding commitment compelling South Africa to enter into a R1trn new nuclear build deal with Russia. Nene had also fallen out of favour with former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni, a Zuma confidante implicated in the destabilisation of Eskom and a central figure in the crises that engulfed the flagship carrier. “Either she [Dudu Myeni] leaves or I leave”. On 2 December 2015, Nene vetoed Myeni on an SAA-Airbus swap transaction, which, if not entered into, would have triggered cross-defaults and an immediate call on the airline’s debt. On 3 November 2015, Nene had told a sitting of an African National Congress (ANC) Study Group that: “Either she [Dudu Myeni] leaves or I leave.”
- National Treasury
Nene and National Treasury officials stood in the way of the Guptas’ ambitions of growing the proceeds of their business dealings with the state from R6bn to R8bn, according to witness testimony to the commission. The installation of Des van Rooyen as Nene’s replacement was part of a broader “clean up” of the National Treasury, the aim of which was the removal of officials who had blocked unfeasible deals, including the new nuclear build programme, and had been on the Guptas’ trail at SOEs. The commission notes that Nene met with the Guptas prior to his appointment as finance minister, but found no evidence he aided the Zuma associates once he took office. Instead, he proved himself an opponent of the Guptas.
Between 2009 and 2018, Transnet awarded an estimated R41.2bn in irregular tenders, amounting to 72.21% of total state “payments in respect of contracts tainted by state capture”.Transnet’s procurement of 1,064 locomotives (599 electric and 465 diesel), and the funding and financing arrangements thereof, under the guise of a R300bn Market Demand Strategy, lies at the heart of the schemes devised to enrich the Guptas and their associates. The Guptas and their associates scored R7.34bn ($469m) in kickbacks from Transnet. Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) Bombardier, 240 electric locomotives; China South Rail, 359 electric locomotives; China North Rail, 232 diesel locomotives; and General Electric, 233 diesel locomotives; were the winning bidders. The initial price for the 1,064 locomotives was R39.94bn, but ballooned to R54.5bn. “Transnet is in the process of launching legal action against the four OEMs contracted to provide the 1,064 locomotives. The intention is to set aside the contracts as unlawful,” the commission reports say. The Guptas and their associates scored R7.34bn in kickbacks from Transnet. McKinsey generated R2.2bn in fees. Regiments and, later, Trillian were introduced to Transnet as McKinsey’s supplier development partners. Transnet’s reliance on consulting and advisory services from McKinsey, Regiments, and Trillian contributed to “the weakening of internal controls and the payment of substantial fees for work that should have been done internally”.
Between August 2012 and July 2014, Zuma held 17 meetings with Bain’s Vittorio Massone, a senior representative at the consultancy firm’s Johannesburg office. The capture of SARS “is one of the few instances where President Zuma was directly and personally involved in the activities and plans to take over a government entity. Another was Eskom”, the Zondo Commission reports say. The commission has recommended that, “in light of Bain’s unlawful role in SARS”, all Bain contracts with government departments and organs of state be re-examined “for compliance with the relevant statutory and constitutional provisions”. The Zondo Commission has also recommended that the SARS Act of 1997 as amended, be amended to provide for “an open, transparent, and competitive process for the appointment of commissioner of SARS”.
The listed EOH Group volunteered information to the Zondo Commission to the effect that the IT company had been involved in a kickback scheme for City of Johannesburg tenders. EOH admitted there had been wrongdoing on its part and informed the commission about what corrective steps the company was taking to prevent future lapses in its processes. Under previous executive management, EOH facilitated donations to the ANC in the Greater Johannesburg region, the proceeds of which were used for the party’s 2016 local government elections campaign. The central figure in the scheme, Geoff Makhubo died of Covid-19 in July 2021. Former EOH executive Jehan Mackay “lent” Zizi Kodwa, an erstwhile ANC national spokesperson and the ex-deputy minister of state security, R1.7m. It is untenable for the deputy minister of state security to find himself in a position where he is beholden to a suspect. The Zondo Commission has determined that the “loans” were intended to buy Kodwa’s influence. Kodwa says he used a R1m loan from Mackay to purchase a Jeep and the rest of the money went towards the payment of luxury accommodation for Kodwa. Kodwa has conceded that he is not in a position to repay the money, but has denied impropriety. Kodwa is now the deputy minister in the presidency. “It is untenable for the deputy minister of state security to find himself in a position where he is beholden to a suspect in multiple criminal investigations,” says the commission. City of Johannesburg is the only municipality investigated by the Zondo Commission.
- The evidence
The drivers and protection officers of former Transnet and Eskom executives provided the Zondo Commission with detailed accounts of their principals’ movements and whereabouts during the period under investigation. Drivers logged meetings, which were not recorded on the executives’ diaries; testified about calls between the executives and the Guptas; and captured Google Maps data of trips taken. The Guptas’ compound in Saxonwold, an upmarket suburb in Johannesburg adjacent to Rosebank, was where political and executive fortunes were made and destroyed. When the Gupta empire was under threat in South Africa because of increasing scrutiny, the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai became their meeting place of choice with compromised ministers and SOE executives. The commission also relied on cellphone records and an e-mail trail to piece together its evidence against implicated parties.
- Buying influence
The R200 note has become synonymous with the Guptas’ cash-for-favours regime. The Guptas stuffed bundles of R200 notes bound together using rubber bands in backpacks, sports bags, travel bags, suitcases, and refuse bags. Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas testified that the Guptas offered him R600,000 cash as a good faith gesture in exchange for him accepting appointment to Nene’s post. Why don’t you take the money? The Guptas also said they would pay Jonas R600m, which he could “stash in Dubai,” if he became finance minister. Jonas rejected the Guptas’ money and their request that he take over from Nene. Recipients of the Gupta cash bribes rented safety deposit boxes at Knox Vaults, in Killarney Johannesburg, to store their loot. Former Denel CEO Riaz Saloojee testified that the Guptas asked him: “Why don’t you take the money?”
- The Gupta empire
The Guptas’ New Age newspapers was Zuma’s idea, according to testimony before the commission. The Guptas’ media assets included a 24-hour satellite news channel, ANN7. Entities within the Gupta stable included Oakbay Investments, Oakbay Resources and Energy, Sahara Computers, Tegeta Resources and Exploration, and Shiva Uranium.
The Zondo Commission says SOE board appointments “should no longer be left solely to ministers”. The commission takes an adverse view of the ANC Deployment Committee’s role in the appointments to SOEs. South Africa requires an anti-corruption body free from political oversight. Given what happened between 2009 and 2019, the Zondo Commission says “there is a pressing need to strengthen the monitoring capability of the procurement system”. “South Africa requires an anti-corruption body free from political oversight and able to combat corruption with fresh and concentrated energy,” says the commission.
The commission’s findings have led to a number of high-profile arrests and prosecutions, including of former government officials and business leaders. The commission has handed a voluminous report to the President and is expected to continue to reveal further evidence of corruption and state capture in South Africa. Albeit, the scandal has not been laid to rest with apparent obfuscation and Supreme Court contestations of sections of the report by the government. These cases are ongoing with no finality and generating further wasteful expenditure of state funds and legal resources
Another high-profile corruption scandal involved the South African National carrier. The corruption at South African Airways (SAA) has been a significant factor in the airline’s financial troubles and eventual bankruptcy. The airline has been plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement for many years, with investigations revealing extensive corruption and irregularities in procurement, contracts, and other areas, including “jobs for pals” and other favours in return for employment contracts.
One of the key issues at SAA has been the irregular awarding of contracts to companies with close ties to politically connected individuals. There have been allegations of inflated prices, kickbacks, and other corrupt practices. In addition, there have been allegations of mismanagement, including over-staffing, excessive salaries, and poor financial controls. The impact of the corruption and mismanagement at SAA has been significant. The airline has faced mounting debt and financial losses, leading to a number of government bailouts. Despite these bailouts, the airline has continued to struggle, and in December 2019, it was placed into business rescue, a form of bankruptcy protection. The business rescue process has been ongoing, with efforts to restructure the airline and find a viable business model. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the airline’s financial troubles, and it is uncertain whether SAA will be able to recover and return to profitability. The corruption at SAA is a stark example of the impact of corruption on a key public institution and its ability to operate effectively and efficiently. It has also highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability in public procurement processes, and for stronger measures to combat corruption in South Africa. The author has personally experienced hugely obese staff, totally incompetent and clear examples of total inefficiency to the accompaniment of gross arrogance. SAA initially denigrated the airline pilots for excessive salaries and the reason for its bankruptcy. This was established later as not the reason at all. Furthermore, hoax qualifications amongst staff were the order of the day in employment appointments in State Owned Enterprises, throughout the country.
Another example of mega corruption was at Eskom, which is South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility. This entity has been plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement in recent years. The corruption at Eskom involves senior officials at the company allegedly engaging in irregularities in procurement, contracts, and other areas of misconduct.
One of the key issues at Eskom has been the awarding of contracts to companies with close ties to politically connected individuals. There have been allegations of inflated prices, kickbacks, and other corrupt practices. In addition, there have been allegations of mismanagement, including over-staffing, excessive salaries, and poor financial controls. The impact of the corruption and mismanagement at Eskom has been significant. The company has faced mounting debt and financial losses, leading to a number of government bailouts. Despite these bailouts, the company has continued to struggle, and there have been concerns about the impact of the company’s financial troubles on South Africa’s economy as a whole. The corruption at Eskom is a stark example of the impact of corruption on a key public institution and its ability to operate effectively and efficiently. It has also highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability in public procurement processes, and for stronger measures to combat corruption in South Africa. There have been also revelations of theft of massive quantities of coal and diesel to be sold privately by official staff of Eskom from the functional service sites of the utility. The corruption was also prevalent at the level of appointments of the Board of Directors at Eskom. The board of Eskom has gone through several changes in recent years, with members, with unrelated experiences being appointed and resigning at different times. Therefore, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive list of the members of the board and their singular expertise. However, there was even a medical professor, appointed as an Eskom Board member. Needless to state that they all received exorbitant salaries. Presently, in view of the load shedding crisis, a Minister of Electricity, Mr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa has been appointed, to resolve the crisis, at an additional and enormous cost to the State. It is important to note that while each of these individuals brought a particular expertise to the board, their performance and actions as board members have been subject to criticism and scrutiny in light of the corruption and mismanagement allegations at Eskom, without effective service delivery, to the national grid, which has resulted in non-maintenance of the infra structures and poor foresight in effecting the construction of additional electricity generating facilities using which ever means presently available. There was also a report of sabotage at the Koeberg Nuclear facility plant in the Western Cape.
Regarding the sectors of the community most affected and adversely impacted by high level corruption in South Africa, is not only restricted to the lower socio-economic echelons, it affects the entire population. However, its impact is often most severe on the poorest and most marginalised sectors of society. These are the people who are most dependent on government services and who are most likely to be negatively impacted by corruption in areas such as healthcare, education, and basic services.
Corruption in South Africa often results in the misallocation of resources, with public funds intended for the provision of services diverted for the benefit of a few individuals. This can lead to the deterioration of infrastructure and public services, and ultimately harm those who rely on them the most. Furthermore, corruption can exacerbate economic inequality and perpetuate a cycle of poverty, as it diverts resources from programs aimed at reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. It can also undermine public trust in government institutions and the rule of law, which can have negative social and economic consequences for the entire population.
Addressing corruption at high government levels in South Africa requires a comprehensive and sustained approach that involves multiple strategies, including:
- Strengthening institutions: The independence and effectiveness of key institutions such as the judiciary, the police, the Public Protector, and the National Prosecuting Authority must be ensured. These institutions should be adequately funded, staffed with competent personnel, and given the necessary powers and resources to carry out their duties effectively.
- Promoting transparency: Openness and transparency in government operations can help reduce the opportunities for corruption. This can be achieved through measures such as public disclosure of government contracts, budgets, and financial statements, as well as the implementation of the Access to Information Act.
- Implementing anti-corruption measures: Effective anti-corruption measures such as whistleblowing protection, asset forfeiture, and strict enforcement of anti-corruption laws must be put in place. This includes enforcing the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and other relevant legislation.
- Encouraging civil society participation: Civil society can play a critical role in holding the government accountable for its actions. This includes the media, which can expose corrupt practices, as well as NGOs and other organizations that can monitor government actions, advocate for transparency and accountability, and provide support to whistleblowers and victims of corruption.
- Building public awareness: Public awareness campaigns can help educate citizens about the dangers of corruption and encourage them to demand accountability from their government officials. This can be done through public education campaigns, social media, and other communication channels.
- Leading by example: Political leaders must lead by example and demonstrate their commitment to transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior. This includes being transparent about their own finances, avoiding conflicts of interest, and taking swift action against corrupt officials within their own ranks.
It is vitally important to realise that addressing corruption at high government levels in South Africa is not a short term, quick fix solution, it is in fact, a long-term process that requires sustained effort, commitment, and political will. Nevertheless, implementing the above strategies, the author is hopeful that the measures can go a long way in holding those responsible for corruption accountable and creating a more transparent and answerable government.
The future prospects of ongoing and unaccountable corruption in South Africa are bleak and potentially damaging to the country’s economy, social fabric, and political stability. Here are some potential outcomes:-
- Economic Consequences: Corruption diverts resources from productive activities, reduces foreign investment, and decreases economic growth. In the long run, these effects can lead to job losses, reduced public services, and an overall decline in living standards.
- Social Consequences: Corruption erodes trust in government institutions, undermines the rule of law, and breeds cynicism and apathy among citizens. This can result in social unrest, protests, and even violence.
- Political Consequences: Corruption weakens democracy, distorts decision-making processes, and perpetuates inequality. This can lead to a loss of faith in the democratic system, and the emergence of authoritarianism or populism.
- International Consequences: Corruption tarnishes a country’s reputation and makes it less attractive to foreign investors and partners. This can lead to reduced international aid, trade, and cooperation.
To prevent these outcomes, it is essential to address corruption through transparent and accountable governance, robust law enforcement, and effective anti-corruption measures. This requires political will, strong institutions, and active civil society participation. It also requires a commitment to strengthening democracy, promoting transparency, and ensuring that those responsible for corruption are held accountable. By doing so, South Africa can create a more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable future for all its citizens.
The Bottom Line is the phrase “A Nation of Thieves” is a common phrase used to describe the high levels of corruption in South Africa. It is often attributed to former President Thabo Mbeki, who used it in a speech in 1998 to describe the problem of corruption in the country, however, it was coined by Carmichael in United States. The phrase has become emblematic of the widespread perception of corruption in South Africa, particularly in the government and business sectors. It is often cited by critics of the government and those who advocate for greater transparency and accountability in public institutions. While the phrase may be seen as a harsh indictment of South Africa’s reputation, it is important to note that corruption is a global problem that affects many countries. It is also important to recognize the efforts made by many South Africans to address corruption and promote good governance. In recent years, South Africa has made progress in fighting corruption, including establishing the Zondo Commission to investigate allegations of state capture and corruption, prosecuting high-profile cases of corruption, and strengthening institutions such as the National Prosecuting Authority and the Special Investigating Unit. However, there is still much work to be done to address corruption in South Africa and to restore public trust in institutions. This requires a sustained effort from all stakeholders, including government, civil society, and the private sector. It is crucial to acknowledge that corruption is a complex issue that affects many countries, and efforts to combat corruption should be focused on identifying and addressing the root causes of the problem. Governments, civil society organizations, and individuals must work together to promote transparency, accountability, and integrity in all aspects of society, especially in South Africa with its diverse racial demographics, social inequality, languages, cultures, financial status and indeed religions. This will ensure social cohesion and nation building with community peace and harmony for all the citizens of the “Rainbow Nation”. It is important to note that while the aim of the author is to create public awareness of corruption in South Africa, and in doing so lists, some of the large scale scandals, the listing of which is in no way biased or prejudiced in any way or against any racial group. I cannot list all the different cases of corruption during the period, since there are numerous cases, and the list could be very extensive. Additionally, it is essential to note that some cases of corruption are still ongoing, and the information on them is continually changing, with refutations, charges and counter charges, as well as assisted escapes from high security prison, of highly connected individuals, involved in criminal activities in South Africa. The effects of corruption on the South African society are felt on the following areas of governance in the country; –
- Economic effects: resulting in a lack of service delivery, rampant inflation, devaluation of the Rand as a currency in the global market
- Political effects: Unstable government with the possibility of a violent revolution and civil war
- Social effects: Racial Disharmony, attracting alternative ideologies and terrorism
- International effects: Exit of existing investors with no new, global investors in view of poor investment risks.
These ongoing nefarious activities augur extremely poorly, on a moral scale for South Africa, in the international theatre of commerce. In addition, ongoing “farm attacks and brutal murders” of elderly white couples, brutal rape and cane land murders, home armed robberies and brutal murders, hijackings and kidnapping of men women and children for ransom, the Gold Mafia, as exposed by Al Jazeera Investigative Unit, the corruption at universities, with staff accepting bribes for admission of minority students who are not admitted into programmes based on racial quotas, corrupt officials in municipalities who approve large building plans for malls, which collapse, irregular building tenders and poorly trained and corrupt building inspectors who approve illegal constructions and substandard building specification. Promotions in Education Department, and police force, in exchange for sexual favours, or cash, issue of false identity, passports and motor vehicle documents, resulting in horrific road traffic accidents. University staff with bogus qualifications are also prevalent. Medical doctors issuing false certificates for financial gain, medical aid fraud, of varying degrees and nature. Corruption in places of worship with clerics conning, exploiting and abusing congregants. Basically, everybody in South Africa has a price and the membership of the nation of thieves is increasing exponentially, even in school children and university students, who present themselves with forged certificate of absence.
Furthermore, there are attempts at combating corruption, however, these are futile efforts, as they are not holistic in nature, as well as planning as these efforts do not include the different stake holders and national role players. There is no “by-in” for Anti-Corruption Measures, generated by the strategies adopted by the government, measures taken by civil society, as well as international cooperation and assistance, as was demonstrated by the refusal of UAE to extradite the Gupta Brothers to South Africa, in spite of the heavily incriminating Zondo Commission Report.
God save South Africa, after its eradication of apartheid and adoption of a criminal societal and economic ethos. Rampant bribery and corruption have literally killed the spirits of Ubuntu and Batho Pele are totally lost and are no longer in existence. How can the nation transform itself?
[ii] Personal quote by the author April 2023
Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
Tags: Africa, Corruption, South Africa
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 May 2023.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: National Peace Disruption: This Is a Nation of Thieves, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
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