Nicole Fritz | We have become used to the ANC's cruelty

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ANC flag. (Thulani Mbele, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file) (Thulani Mbele)
ANC flag. (Thulani Mbele, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file) (Thulani Mbele)

There are more than enough mechanisms to deal with perpetrators of corruption instead of following through on the ANC's suggestion of an investigating agency, writes Nicole Fritz.

A king flees his country.

Without crown, without country, he must now roam the world.

Banishment is the price he is required to pay because it is said this gallivanting king would return from jaunts abroad with suitcases stuffed full of cash - monies later deposited in secretive, off-shore accounts.

The cash, it is said, was gifted by kings and princes of other foreign lands, grateful to the now exiled king for the way he had eased and facilitated certain business transactions between their respective countries.

To spare his family and country the ignominy that investigation and disclosure of these transactions will bring, he now enters voluntary exile.

This isn't some archetypal moral fable of the consequences of corruption.

It's a developing story involving the former king of Spain, Juan Carlos - a reminder, should anyone need it, that corruption is hardly endemic to South Africa and its political class, whatever the latest revelations of Covid-19 procurement-related corruption might have us believe.

We are angry

And it isn't as if corruption is some signature of South Africa's political class post-democracy.

As the work of groups like Open Secrets and books such as Hennie van Vuuren's Apartheid, Guns and Money show, corruption was woven inextricably into the fibre of apartheid South Africa. Further, the state has always been instrumentalised to serve whichever political elite occupies power (See this essential analysis from Moeletsi Mbeki).

But lest you think this is some relativist account of corruption in South Africa, a call to extend a sympathetic ear or go gently on its perpetrators, you would be wrong.

We are steaming mad at the corruption which is cutting our country out from under us and here is why we should be:

We are not, as is the case with Spain, the inheritors of some antiquated system of governance, hobbled under the weight of trying to make an outdated structure fit the complexities of modern life.

We came together, not in some distant past but in the very lifetimes of many of us in this country, to make a pact about our system of governance - a pact forged from agonising sorrow and suffering and translated in considered, deliberative reasoning.

That pact, our Constitution, has never been the destination; it has always been a map of how we get someplace better - from a land of deep inequality and desperate want to a country of peace, prosperity, plenty for everybody.

Corruption of the type we have seen in what is now referred to as our lost decade, and more recently during this period of pandemic, does not just mean our journey is diverted, it means we can't even really begin.

Corruption always rings heartlessly. But, it's hard to comprehend the type of callousness entailed by corruption relating to Covid-19 procurement.

Everyone involved has to know that for every inflated good or service procured, every kickback passed along, there are fewer funds available to purchase what are literally life-saving commodities - less personal protective equipment for frontline workers, fewer food parcels for those who are starving and destitute. Motorcycle sidecars rather than ambulances to get you to hospital in your hour of greatest need. In the balance of these corruptly awarded tenders hangs actual lives.

We are not unaccustomed to cruelty and callousness from our political class: Marikana, Life Esidimeni, the Estina/Vrede dairy scandal.

Blistering rage

More recently, a court order has had to be obtained to force the government to continue the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) under lockdown - for millions of school-going children the only access they have to a nutritious meal.

But corruption at this time, when so many ordinary South Africans are required to make such enormous sacrifices, means we come to see the political class not just as occasionally or aberrationally callous and cruel as regards our well-being, but as always so - our circumstances, however dire, assessed primarily as opportunity for financial gain for themselves.

We the governed cannot but feel rancour, mistrust, suspicion.

Our rage, even at social distance, is blistering - so blistering the ruling party now proposes the establishment of an investigating agency eerily like the Scorpions unit it once cheerily decapitated.

Make no mistake though, real action against the perpetrators of corruption needs no Scorpions-like establishment and the obvious delays entailed. 

There are enough resources within the criminal justice system right now to take the action that is needed.

And there is always voluntary banishment... Good enough for kings.

- Nicole Fritz is the CEO of Freedom Under Law.

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