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Adv. Saras Chettiar
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Corruption: Eating way at our Democracy: Will you let it Continue?

11 February 2014, 12:37

Today 24 years ago, South Africans from across the spectrum were rejoicing. Our day had finally come. The freedom we dreamed about was personified with our hero walking out of prison before our very eyes. We were filled with hope. Our day had finally arrived.  Our values described in the Freedom charter (which most of us had memorized and were able to say it  in a parrot style) was going to the values of our country. We cried in joy after  attaining something that we were able to see in our life time recalling the days when were chanting,” Freedom in our Lifetime.” And cried for the people who fought for our freedom but never saw it but it was a joyous day. Today 24 years later, our madiba is no more and our freedom charter has found a place in an archive of yesteryear to be replaced by the plague of corruption that has become a norm in the country.

It is interesting to note that in July last year, Transparency International’s, report, “International Global Corruption Barometer found that almost half of South Africans who came into contact with government officials (47%) paid a bribe to the official in the 2012. South Africans seem to forgive both the private sector and the public sector for corruption.  It seems that the ability to drive fancy cars, live in fancy houses and go on fancy trips in designer clothes is what we are aspiring to become without having to follow the journey of sound business practice because we can achieve all of this merely by utilizing a few connections in the right place or by paying a bribe to the right official.  We have seen tenderprenuers with little or no business acumen nor experts in the particular field grow enterprises and because we have become a society that applaud the accumulation of material wealth above  values, corruption has found a home in our society.

Corruption  has taken many faces however the most popular is described, in an article by Jack Bloom,” Empowerment V Tenderpreneurship ( politics web) , “ Tenderpreneur is a term that describes individuals who enrich themselves through corrupting the awarding of government tender contracts, mostly based on personal connections and corrupt relationships-although outright bribery might also take place and sometimes  involving an elected or politically appointed official( or his family members) holding simultaneous business interests. This is often accompanied by overcharging and shoddy workmanship.” (Source Wikipedia).  

 While South Africa has an extensive list of legislation and mechanisms to combat corruption, our main piece of legislation is governing anti corruption is the Prevention and combating of corrupt Activities Act 2004(PACCA).  In terms of this piece of legislation, a person is guilty of an offence if he directly or indirectly accepts or offers to accept a gratification from another person or give or agrees to give a gratification to any other person for his benefit or that of another or gives or agrees to give a gratification to any other person for his benefit or that of another. The giving or acceptance must be done in order to induce the other party to act in an improper manner, in the performance of that individual’s duties.

There have been many high level cases reported cases on corruption, notably Nkandla, Arms deal, travel gate, Jacki selebi and Algiotti. However the  list is not extensive and exclusive to the government. It exists in the private sector, it exists  in each of us every time you want to take the easy way out by bribing  a traffic officer instead of receiving a fine, every time you bribe a Home affairs officer so that you can get your passport in a faster time frame, every time you  receive donations and sponsorships from tenderpreneurs.  Corruption has become too normal in our society.  A report submitted by Edward Nathan Sonnenberg, found that in 2011-2012 financial year, public sector fraud cost the taxpayer close to one billion rands.  That is R 1billion rand from your pocket.  It is not only the governments’ problem or the ruling party, or the private sector. It lies inside each of us either through actively engaging in corruption or bearing witness and doing nothing about it.

Corruption has affected  our people and especially the most vulnerable in our country. It has meant the difference between  whether we have clean sheets on hospital beds, whether our people have been given proper medication in a timeouts manner, whether our children receive their textbooks, whether our people are transported to work on time, whether  the price of  essential services increases or not, whether the costs of food increases. It is not happening to some fat cat, it is affecting all of us. Think about it before you take out a bribe to pay a traffic officer.   This is the face of the new struggle.   Pravin Gordan ,  stated  “ We need to fight the culture of corruption. A culture of making easy money. Not having to think hard, work hard, be clever and find an innovative way of making money. But rather just take whatever it is….increase the price of this microphone from R10 to R1000, make a nice profit without lifting a finger.”  We have to bear the worlds of Margaret mead, “ Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed that’s all who ever have. “    

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