The Perceptions Of Things

2016-02-01 09:17

The ANC has since the beginning of its government shied away from political showmanship, grandstanding and other public relations acts. ANC presidents in particular have not spent time on elaborate public relations photo shoots, be it painting hospitals and schools. Those photo opportunities that may have occurred would generally be toned down and public relations messaging subdued. President Thabo Mbeki refused to be seen playing to the public gallery, toying with people's emotions or be a liar and this was interpreted by some as aloofness.

The ANC has deep traditions, which may set it up against the new ways of doing things. There are small steps the party is taking to realize that in this digital era, images and perception framing can go a longer way. President Jacob Zuma has of late been often reluctantly photographed wearing work wear suits during low cost housing sites, agricultural or game anti-poaching campaigns.

The most important milestone in these however was the first time I heard the ANC acknowledge that perceptions do matter. In his 2015 State of the Nation Address, Zuma did not just talk about actual corruption but the perceptions of corruption too.

What this double focus on corruption has produced are positive results on the Transparency International Corruption Index, with South Africa moving from rank 67 to 61 out of 168 countries in just one year (0 rank is perceived clean of corruption).

Often the ANC has argued that corruption is perceived endemic because it is topical and treated seriously by government and the media. This implied that negative perceptions were not necessarily detrimental. The change of rhetoric to include “perceptions” is a favourable balance.

Since 1994, government has reported on average some R2 billion worth of public sector corruption per year, making corruption since democracy some R40 billion with just 90 per cent of that recovered through asset forfeiture. Some reports have reported public corruption sector corruption at over exaggerated and far fetched R30 billion per year. Certainly, there has not been that type of money recorded by the National Prosecuting Authority as being the total of their prosecutions for corruption.

Africa Check, an independent research group has also debunked the figure of R30 billion per annum (R700 bil since 1994) corruption figure that has often brandied as fact. The proponents of these figures do not say from what data is it based. Public Service Commission, Treasury and the Presidency actuaries have repeatedly inserted in the speeches the actual numbers of people under investigations and figures involved. This is also cross-referenced with Asset Forfeiture and general NPA prosecutions.

To date, at the best calculations, only some R40 – R50 billion has been involved (not lost) in corruption as about 90 per cent of it recovered.

Had R700 billion been out in the streets, such hot money needs vast spending and will be visible in various locations. With electronic tracing of money via FICA, it is almost impossible to keep it in cash.

Racist perceptions that blacks are inherently corrupt are at the root of why public sector corruption has been over exaggerated in the manner it has and private sector ignored.

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