On Thursday it will be 53 years since a crowd of several thousand people took up their places on the winter-brown grass at Kliptown and proceeded to adopt the Freedom Charter — a blueprint for a non-racial, humane society in stark contrast to the ruthless apartheid police state of the day. Joseph Mobutu’s long and destructive dictatorship of the Congo led to the emergence of a class known by those outside his charmed circle as the grosses legumes (big vegetables). These individuals battened on the economy of the Congo, reducing it to one of Africa’s worst basket cases. We have already started sprouting our own crop of “big vegetables” and the effects can be seen in the increasing inefficiency of most branches of the civil service and of parastatals like Eskom. The sort of erosion of values that this causes makes it increasingly difficult for the government to carry out the mandate envisaged by the framers of the Freedom Charter.