Nkandla: Don’t look away again

2013-07-07 14:00

South Africans tend to look away from corruption because we don’t like the image it reflects.

We make a big noise for a bit and then we forget.

Naked, invasive and deep corruption reflects human fallibility, greed and the fact that power corrupts.

It is hard to look at when it grips a first post-apartheid black government which is still, in many ways, the embodiment of democratic aspiration.

And so we largely walked away from the corruption of the arms deal, that ground zero of our descent into sleaze.

Look also at the outcome of the investigation into the construction cartel.

Yes, players in the industry who came clean have paid fines of about R1.4?billion, but not a single executive or director appears to have walked the plank for the naked collusion that emerged.

Business has turned the other cheek although it preaches about corruption in the public sector.

Yes, there’s a commission of inquiry looking into the arms deal, but have you looked at it recently?

The commission, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, is a comedy of errors and obfuscation.

Its best investigators have quit, it is making zero progress because, frankly, there is zero political will to ensure it excavates the loss of our integrity and puts us on a path of relatively clean governance.

There is no public outcry about this.

There is a determined attempt to walk away from the arms deal and pretend it didn’t happen.

And there is now a similar attempt to walk away from the Nkandla scandal and pretend it didn’t happen.

An inquiry by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has been mysteriously classified so it cannot be held up to the cold light of public scrutiny.

But the Mail & Guardian’s treasure trove of documents, which were revealed on Friday, show precisely why it must be scrutinised for they reveal cronyism, overspending and the bending of procurement rules. In other words, they reveal corruption on a scale perhaps equal in significance to the arms deal.

There is, of course, a crucial difference.

The arms deal appears to have benefited the governing ANC in various ways, but Nkandla is about one man. President Jacob Zuma, the documents tell us, was regularly briefed by a series of ministers on the revamp of his presidential estate as its price ballooned from an eyebrow-raising R20?million to an eye-popping amount in excess of R200?million.

Everything is being done to distract you from a scandal as deep and troubling as the arms deal.

Don’t look away again.

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