Is corruption really just a Western thing?

2014-10-20 06:45

I have recently had heated arguments with friends because of my critical stance against President Jacob Zuma.

I have been accused of using the white gaze and prejudicing our government, and of not being critical of big business in post-apartheid South Africa.

Here is the thing. In post-apartheid South Africa, the government is an elected government in a constitutional democracy. Therefore, the government is our government.

When something is “our thing”, which translates in Italian to Cosa Nostra, which some would know refers to the Mafia, it is our responsibility to keep “our thing” in check.

However, if our government tries to dodge being accountable to us by eroding the principles of our Constitution, we have to speak up.

When legislation is questioned and a convenient argument deems accountability as Eurocentric, our government is telling us we are the problem and not them.

But how can we be the problem when we elected our government to represent us and our needs? How can we be Eurocentric for being critical? Is asking questions and seeking accountability un-African?

Is a sense of doing good for all and not just a few not part of our African tradition, as espoused in the Freedom Charter? Or is the Freedom Charter and its principles also Eurocentric compared with the concept of ubuntu?

My problem with this debate is that it takes us further away from the real issues, which are poverty eradication, nonracialism, nonsexism and all the other social ills that we need to address in post-apartheid South Africa.

And yes, big business and its inhumane working conditions and pay also demand urgent address.

But these things can only happen if we can get our government on our side and include it in our fight against the ills that plague our society.

And, whether you call it Eurocentric or Afrocentric, our government still needs to serve the greater good.

So, I am begging our government to stop these trivial discussions around corruption and try to find ways to resolve some of the urgent issues that plague our beloved society.

South Africa belongs to all who live in it, so we are all responsible for the choices we make, including who we next elect into the highest office in the land.

Nadira Omarjee is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies

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