Why I aired my bank balance

2013-08-26 10:00

The act of taking South Africans into my confidence by disclosing my financial interests this week has sparked a lot of interesting debate.

I’m glad this is happening. It is time we started focusing on the questions that all citizens should be asking of their leaders. These are questions of transparency and accountability in public office and, by extension, casting the spotlight on the cancer of corruption.

As was to be expected, my attempt at striking a blow for clean governance has struck a raw nerve with the ruling party and those who benefit from its largesse.

After 20 years of getting rich from government tenders, this is hardly surprising.

Our country is at a crossroads. If we don’t change course now, rampant corruption will continue to rob every man, woman and child of their future and South Africa of its full potential.

Almost 20 years since liberation, millions of South Africans still do not have access to clean drinking water, decent jobs, homes, quality education with textbooks and teachers, and healthcare.

It has been reported that during the nearly 20 years the ANC has been in power, up to R385 billion has been stolen via corruption.

The list of indignities suffered by South Africans as a result of corruption is endless but if there is one above all that sticks in the throat, it is Nkandlagate.

The R270 million of taxpayers’ money spent by President Jacob Zuma on his lavish personal palace – including a cattle kraal for more than R1 million – could have paid for well over 13 000 RDP homes that are badly needed in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Agang SA is going to relentlessly pursue those in government who are corrupt. We believe there are two pillars necessary to defeat corruption: transparency and accountability.

We have called for a ban on government officials and their families doing business with the state.

Adopting these measures will be the first order of business for a new government. Leaders must earn the trust of the people who vote for them by showing they do not steal public money.

All public officials should be accountable to citizens. But in order for that to happen, transparency is essential.

This was the motivation for my disclosure.

As leader of Agang SA, I am committed to a society free of corruption.

If the South African people elect me to public office next year, my fellow citizens will be able to use this information to hold both myself and Agang SA accountable.

This is what Agang SA means by a government that listens to the people and answers to the people.

Over the past two decades of ANC rule, corruption has spiralled out of control, going from bad to much, much worse.

In other words, this government has perfected what successive apartheid regimes had started.

According to Transparency International, on this current government’s watch our ranking on the global corruption index has plummeted from 55 of 178 countries in 2009 to 69th in 2012.

We cannot allow this relentless damage to our country’s reputation and this cowardly theft from the poor. It is time for new leadership and new ideas to restore the promise of freedom that we fought for and for which many have died.

Now it has been asked if I am not worried that the fact that my finances show that I am not poor will hurt our electoral prospects among poor people.

I don’t think so.

This view betrays a fundamental misconception about poor people. Just because people are poor, it does not mean that they have no ambition and that they have accepted their situation as something ordained by God, and that they are forever condemned to a life of poverty.

On the contrary, I believe my success inspires millions of people out there. It shows what you can achieve despite the obstacles put in your way.

If a girl from Bochum in rural Limpopo can succeed in life, so can they if they get the opportunity.

The hope for a better tomorrow – living with dignity, equality and freedom – lives eternally in the hearts of all people.

That is why even the poorest of our citizens make sacrifices to educate their children.

They truly believe, as we say in Sepedi, “thuto ke lehumo (education is wealth)”.

But, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The people of South Africa have a stark choice to make in next year’s general election.

Will they rather vote for a self-made woman who has worked hard to make a success of her life against all odds, or a president who thinks nothing of spending R270 million of public funds on building a palace for himself, while many suffer another five years of living like forgotten people?

Only time will tell.

» Ramphele is the leader of Agang SA

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