Churches step up

2017-05-30 06:00

AFRIEND of mine has first-hand knowledge of the Guptas’ interference in the state and the immense wealth their network derives as a result.

He cannot report it to the authorities because part of what he knows includes how senior people in the South African Police Service are on the take.

He cannot approach senior leaders in the government because those who are not part of the capture network are running from it.

He thinks that telling ANC leaders what he knows is a pointless exercise as nobody is particularly interested in dealing with the looting of the state. The ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) last year mandated its secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, to investigate state capture but then shut down the process.

It seems the intention was to create the impression that the allegations were taken seriously but when President Jacob Zuma’s allies in the NEC realised that the information was explosive, they had to stop it from going further.

There must be many people like my friend who have witnessed the illicit dealings of the Guptas and the surrender of the state to them. It must be a heavy burden to carry, particularly when they are in the employ of the state and trying to do their jobs with integrity.

The presentation this week by the SA Council of Churches (SACC) on its “Unburdening Panel” on corruption in the state was therefore a welcome development. The SACC undertook the process to allow people to come forward to church leaders with information of corruption and the manipulation of official processes to extract large amounts of money from the government.

SACC general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana said they undertook a pastoral process, not an investigation. Based on the information the SACC received, one can only wonder what would be unearthed if there had to be a proper investigation or a judicial commission of inquiry. “The problem is bigger than corruption, it’s chaos,” Mpumlwana said, warning that South Africa is on the brink of becoming a “Mafia state” and that the government has lost its “moral legitimacy”.

The SACC will be issuing a pastoral letter across its congregations to inform people about the capture of the state.

While the ANC and government constantly turn a blind eye to media revelations of state capture, it will not be as easy to ignore this bold stance by the religious leaders.

The churches have been used as a convenient platform for political campaigning up to now. If that door is closed, it will be a big problem for the ANC, particularly during such a high-stakes political year.

The SACC process is an eye-opener for the rest of society too. Too many people feel helpless as they watch the abuse of the state for corrupt purposes.

The return of the disgraced Brian Molefe as Eskom chief executive officer is a prime example of this. Despite the outrage from society, and even from the ANC, Molefe was reinstalled in his post to continue kowtowing to the will of the Guptas.

Our country is teetering on the precipice, particularly with the corrupt network seeking to entrench itself further through the ANC succession battle.

In this context of moral degeneration and stripping the state of credibility, civic activism and keeping people informed is more crucial than ever. History is replete with examples of societies plunging into ruin because of the success of state propaganda and the absence of civic activism.

In a time of fake news and manipulation of public perception, newspapers such asThe Witness, with a long and proud history, should be supported and strengthened.

This is my final column for The Witness as my career path takes me elsewhere. I began my career in journalism at this paper for the same reason I continue to do it now: to tell the story of our time. The Witnessplays an essential role in providing knowledge and reflecting that story. Long may it continue to do so.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick.


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