The death of Corruption in Africa
Friends. A dream is a window to your thoughts. What you think about is what you dream about! Oursuccess is related closely to how we think, thus to what we dream about. Very often we allow our imagination to run wild, without realizing that this could be the key to our success. This is a short trip from Possibility to Reality. We are the captains of this cruise ship, and we have been charged with the travel itinerary.The journey begins in a tiny township of Bekkersdal in the West Rand of Gauteng Province in South Africa. Bekkersdal is a township surrounded by mines, but it is not a mining community.Very few mineworkers live in Bekkersdal, and those who do, do not originally hail from the sleepytown. It is also one of the most unequal settlements in the province, as seen by the commonappearance of a mansion right next to a shack dwelling. The people of this township live simplelives, work during the week; attend a funeral on a Saturday, followed by a night of drinking andpartying, and finally 3 hours at church on a Sunday morning. Those from outside do not knowmuch about Bekkersdal, nor do they care because there is nothing to write home about. It is notpoor enough to be considered desolate or famous enough to talk about. Perhaps one day thisfar-flung place will be known as the place of my birth, sadly for the moment it is known as one ofthe worst performing municipalities in South Africa.In 2004 then President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa chose Bekkersdal as one of his presidentialprojects to undergo massive urban renewal. The company chosen to run the project wasPowerhouse. For the first time in a decade, Bekkersdal was visited by prominent people in thenational and provincial governments, and there was much excitement in the normally dusty air ofthe township. Several initiatives were announced leading up to the start of the project, chiefamong them was a local bursary scheme for deserving learners from local schools. At the end ofthat year, a group of 7 learners from Kgothalang Secondary school performed beyond belief andwere all granted money to study at Universities of their choice. 2 chose Wits, another went to theUniversity of Johannesburg while his friend went to the Vaal University of Technology and therest went down south to UCT. This was the most exciting time for me personally because Ibelieved that in just a year I would be one of the chosen. Little did I know that in just a year Iwould experience my first taste of what corruption can do to shatter the dreams of the Africanyoung people.Corruption is not merely just the action of gaining an undeserved advantage using illegal means;it is also a culture, a way of thinking and an attitude. Many of my friends without drivers’ licenceshave resigned to the fact that they may have to pay a bribe to stand a chance of passing theirdriving exams. This extends to more than just public officials; I recall my own experience when Istood on a queue at the Vaal University of Technology waiting to register for a National Diplomain Analytical Chemistry. A lady approached me, and showed me her staff card, and told me shecould help me get to the front of the queue. All I had to do was buy her some lunch and a can ofcoca cola. I couldn’t believe my “luck”. I promptly got out of the queue to the cafeteria and got herthe lunch she “did not work for” and as soon as I delivered my end of the deal, she took me byhand, into the administration building and within 15 minutes I was registered and ready to beginmy studies. Had I deserved to register ahead of other people, was it “luck” that I had enough money to buy the lunch? What about those who had woken up in the wee hours of the morning just so that they could avoid being at the back end of the line? What if I took someone else’s space, and now they live in desperation because they could not register for the course they sorely desired? Corruption goes way beyond the exchange of money from one hand to the other, it is a system developed to turn brother against his own, to cause suspicion to previously trusted peers and colleagues. It was upon reflection that I developed my own personal value strategy in order to avoid such temptations in the future and I call it RISE: Respect-Integrity-Service-Excellence and I will expound on this as I write. The story of corruption need not be the reality of our people; we must defeat it and treat it as an enemy. The good of the community must always rise above those of the individual. Katleho Phadi*; one of the beneficiaries of the bursary scheme in my community suffered a humiliating blow at the end of his first year of studies. He had passed very well, and was showing signs of conquering the notoriously difficult degree called B (EconSci) Actuarial Science. Instead of enjoying his results with his family he was sent into a frantic panic when he was told the powerhouse bursary scheme was being discontinued, leaving him in limbo. This piece of news had been conveniently left till the end of the academic year, just 2 months before the beginning of his second year, which is both more difficult and more expensive. Even more alarming was the fact that the information was not communicated in writing, just an SMS sent from an online free SMS website. By his own resolve, perseverance and humility Katleho decided to travel 80km north to Pretoria, to write an entrance exam to the foundation year programme of the University of Pretoria. This would mean he would have to complete a bridging science course for a year, before re-embarking on his chosen mainstream course. Corruption is a killer. Had he lacked the resolve, clarity of thought and the humility to endure this shame, he would have surely been a victim to corruption’s sharp claws. I am happy that today Katleho is a graduate working for one of South Africa’s biggest insurance companies. Every dream goes through birth; death and if it endures this period of non-existence it can be reborn. Dreams are born from our environments made up of people willing to extend a helping hand and others who believe in us when we ourselves do not see enough signs to continue dreaming. Corruption is a dream killer. When thousands of young people apply for jobs they are perfectly suited for and deserving of, corruption comes and steals their opportunities. In the mining sector it is common practice that you only get hired if you know the Union bosses, or someone who does, and knowing them means being willing to either share a portion of your prospective salary or paying a finder’s fee to the person who referred you to the person in charge of hiring. The spirit of Ubuntu, of doing things for others without any expectation of reward has been thrown out of the window as people start believing in the law of survival, kill or be killed. And the first victims of corruption are the dreams of our people all over the continent. BUT these dreams cannot remain dead forever. Corruption is not strong enough to stand the tide of Africa rising: A generation of young people waiting for the opportune time to make a shift to theirs and their people’s realities; moving them from possibility to reality. The goal of the Anti-Apartheid movement was not just to force a regime change, but it was also aimed at challenging and changing the status quo. A new movement is on the rise, that of Anti-corruption. And my challenge to the leaders is to adopt RISE AND I will share extensively what that entails and how it can impact on the lives of people on the continent.Respect-The essence of humanity is dignity. When dignity is diminished, humans cannot be trusted to be rational, moral or humane. Respect is a fundamental human trait, and is inherent in all people for example a child respects a father’s presence even without being told he/she needs to. When a father is present, certain things cannot be said or done. These are things the child is born with, the ability to discern what could upset their father, or the need to make their parents proud, even when they do not know how to, they dedicate themselves to trying to achieve for the sake of their parents’ approval. When the South African constitution was drafted one of the pressing issues was how it would address the dignity lost during apartheid. They ended up coming to the conclusion that dignity cannot be taken, but can be lost and as such all people have the right to the protection of their dignity. This well-considered right infers several things such as the fact that everyone is born with dignity. Everyone is born with the ability to do unto others what they wish to see done to them. Corruption is inhumane because it causes people to do what they dread ever having anyone do unto them. Is there anyone who wishes to have money extorted from them, or who wishes to see others pay their way to the top at their expense? When leaders protect the right to protection of dignity they actively identify threats to this dignity such as the lack of access to quality education, healthcare, jobs, economic emancipation, and equality in the eyes of the law. Leaders must display the ability to resist any kind of coercion, in the form of promise of funding for political campaigns, immunity from prosecution or even the bestowing of opulent gifts by others in order to gain favour with the leaders. Integrity-my favourite definition of integrity is: Being at the right place, doing the right thing, for the right reasons. The alliteration can go on, but what this means in practical applicable terms is that people must know the motives of their leaders. Why would a leader want so badly to be voted for? What does he/she stand to gain from election, will he/ she be able to keep the promises made prior to election. Leaders must also accept that politics is not about policies, philosophies; privileges; profits; principles or power but it is about people. People that put them in power, or who adopt the policies, or believe in the promises must remain in the centre of thinking, and it must the politicians’ job to be trustworthy and display integrity. Corruption can be defeated to restore African dreams if there is enough will to expose any kind of criminal intent in the form of corrupt dealings. No one has a price, because dignity is not for sale. Service- Jesus says “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” responding to a question on whom among his disciples was the greatest. Humble people serve proud people “deserve”, therein lays the difference. Humble people ask not what can be done for them, instead they choose to ask, what can I do for you? And it is so easy for people to sell “service” when they ask this question, they could easily add: “how much will you give me if I do this, that and the other for you?” A friend of mine when asked why he is so humble states “I will never be humiliated if I display humility, the proud chase fame, and all they get is shame and only history can judge who makes the better choice in the end” and it is this kind of attitude that will help the movement to end corruption. What can I do for others! Those you serve need not know it; you do not even need to know them. Corruption stops people from caring about how others feel while they themselves expect others to care. Africans must accept their character of being a warm and caring people. We are older than money and we cannot be defeated by the need to have what we have known so little of, or cared so little for.Excellence-If you do not do it well, then don’t do it at all. Aristotle calls excellence a habit of thought and action. If you continually do good; you are good. Africa is old and Africa is also new. The newness of our motherland grants us the opportunity to do things that have never been done before. Chris Barnaard had no reference to how a heart transplant was supposed to be done, he took the plunge and relied on doing an excellent job and leaving the rest to God, and ended up making medical history. Did he do it, just to make history? I doubt that was his motivation because the potential for failure was so big, he could not have been conceited or proud of this endeavor. It is my belief that the inherent Africanness in him wanted to see his patient alive, awake and enthusiastic about life. This Africanness is now known as Ubuntu, the essence of doing unto others what you would have them do to you and for you. Africans have a history of Ubuntu. When leaders accept their role as the bearers of the African identity and everything that comes with it, Corruption will cease to exist. We will see the end to brutality of police forces, deaths due to famine and poverty. It begins with the knowledge that “You are, therefore I am”. Things always seem more extreme when they have their own names: Money Laundering, Racketeering, Extortion, Bribery and many others. These are all fancy almost euphemized ways of calling out corruption. Some people are even audacious enough to say: “At least I am not a murderer” But if your actions kill people’s dreams, then a murderer you are!” There must be an end to the victimization of those who actively expose corruption, such as journalists and other whistle blowers. Africa will thrive when its people accept who they are, and it is incumbent upon all leaders, the classroom teacher, school principal, the ward Councillor, or the president of a country must carry the load for the death of corruption and expel it from this new-born culture of entitlement and enrichment. The fight against corruption must not be about individuals but about a system that encourages betrayal, backstabbing and cheating. Africa cannot continue to be the land of ghost towns, empty farmlands or fat cats. Let us be there to witness the rebirth of the dreams and aspirations of our young continent. Let Africa not be known for polarities but for the commonality of purpose and identity. Let this year be known as the year of action against foreign systems of suspicion and threat and build an Africa of cooperation and collaboration. Let’s move Today’s possibility into tomorrow’s reality.
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