Guest Column

Herman Mashaba: Race has no place in the corruption debate

2020-03-02 14:26
An OUTA protest on King’s Highway bridge in Pretoria. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

An OUTA protest on King’s Highway bridge in Pretoria. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

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The fight against corruption is noble, whether it is pursued by a black person or a white person. When public money is stolen, it is taken from the many pressing needs that exist in South Africa, writes Herman Mashaba

Last week I announced that The People’s Dialogue would be launching private prosecutions.

I have made this decision because South Africans, and the world, need to see corrupt politicians facing justice.  

I have fought corruption as a Mayor, and I will fight it through the new political alternative I am establishing.   

Also last week, I met with representatives of OUTA to begin exploring possible partnerships in the work of private prosecutions.

A photograph appeared Tn twitter of me alongside Wayne Duvenage of OUTA.   

The response from some South Africans disappointed very deeply.

Some South Africans responded by criticising the move by introducing a racial element to it - “Yo don’t learn Ntate Mashaba. We need to fight the real enemy here. We can’t win this battle if we partner with the oppressors…"

I am not the kind of person who tolerates nonsense for the sake of winning support.

I call out this kind of thinking, welcoming anyone who thinks this way to find another political home.   

Let me start by saying that Wayne Duvenage is a great South African for whom I have immense respect and admiration.

The work that he and OUTA have done for this country deserves the appreciation of all South Africans.

For all of us who have opposed e-tolls, we owe a lot to Wayne Duvenage who has led this fight for us all.   

What worries me more deeply is that introduction of race into the discussion of fighting corruption.   

Race is a hugely important issue in South Africa.

Its role in our society must never be marginalised as we work to build a non-racial future by addressing the injustices of our past.

But, corruption is one place where the discussion of race does not belong.   

To suggest otherwise, would be dangerously irresponsible.   

This kind of thinking is located in the idea that the National Party ate well when they were in power and now it is "our turn".

I abhor this kind of thinking.   

Our country is so divided on the issue of race, and there is so much that needs to be done to build a better future for all South Africans.

But one thing we have to agree on is that corruption is evil, whether it was perpetrated by a white person or a black person.

The fight against corruption is noble, whether it is pursued by a black person or a white person.  

When public money is stolen, it is taken from the many pressing needs that exist in South Africa.

It robs our country of the economic growth, job creation, infrastructure and social justice that is required to run South Africa around.

The corrupt do not care in the slightest whether they are stealing from a project meant for a rich area or a poor area, they just take what is not theirs.

In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that corruption hurts the poorest in our society most, because they do not have the ability to supplement government failure with their own personal means.   

Think about the billions that have been looted at Eskom next time you are sitting in the dark.

The wealthiest in our society, myself included, have the means to install generators, solar panels and invertors.

The poorest in our society, who are mostly black, if they even have electricity need to go and spend money on candles.

Do you think those who stole from Eskom gives a damn?   

The kind of thinking, like the tweet shared above, makes me embarrassed as a South African and ashamed that I live on the same planet as anyone who thinks this way.

I am a black person, I lived through the darkest days of Apartheid and I have witnessed its cruel legacy as the Mayor of the most unequal City in the world.   

I do not believe, for one moment, that the South Africa we dreamed of in 1994 was one which simply changed the colour of the politicians which steal our money.

South Africans fought for a new democracy which was supposed to give birth to a better South Africa and not an evil twin.   

So, let me be clear.

I will work with any South African, of whatever colour, creed, orientation or gender to fight the corruption that is going unpunished in our country.

I will do it openly and I will do it proudly.   

If you do not like it, don’t vote for the political party I am working to establish.

Rather vote for the parties that are stealing your money, and telling you there is not enough to deliver the services your community needs.   

Just be prepared to answer the tough question your grandchildren will pose to you one day: "What did you do when my future was being stolen?"  

- Mashaba is founder of The People's Dialogue

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    outa  |  wayne duvenage  |  herman mashaba  |  corruption  |  race


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