TO MY MIND
The so-called “war against corruption” seems to be used selectively to eliminate political opponents
THE EXTENT of corruption in South Africa, as analysed by Troye Lund in this issue of Finweek (pages 14 to 19) is a cancer eating at the country’s economy. And – it cannot be overemphasised – it’s especially the poor who are hardest hit.
Politicians who profess that they have the interests of the poor and the underprivileged at heart, but then allow the cancer of corruption to continue to grow, are guilty of being hypocritical. Corruption robs the poor of the opportunity for a better life. People who are corrupt steal taxpayers’ money destined to improve education and maintaining and expanding the roads, railways, electricity supply, Internet access and other infrastructure. These people hamper the ability of the economy to grow and provide opportunities for the poor.
The rich can to a large extent care for themselves. Companies adapt to the most challenging circumstances and if things really become tough, capital simply flees overseas. People with skills can also emigrate to other countries. So it’s the poor who have very little choice. They are the ones yearning for a better life. That chance of a better life depends largely on decisions taken by Government.
It seems as if quite a number of people in the ruling party won’t or cannot see the difference between economic empowerment and corruption.
Empowerment of the previously disadvantaged is undoubtedly necessary. The playing field can’t be level if the vast majority of the people have fallen behind over ensuing decades because there was deliberate prejudice against them in a previously pernicious system. Measures to level the playing field are essential.
But that can only work – and continue working – if it occurs in a framework that promotes economic growth. And healthy competition between people, companies and parties is the basis for that growth. Without growth, only a privileged few will enjoy the (shrinking) benefits, because the economic cake in SA isn’t nearly big enough to support everyone in luxury or even comfortably.
One of the most disturbing aspects of Government’s handling of corruption is the way its socalled “war against corruption” is used selectively to eliminate political opponents. Because Government allows politicians and officials to tender for State contracts themselves, many of them are compromised and become the victims of witchhunts. There are constant clashes of interest that can’t simply be brushed aside with a “Yes, but I declared it”.
The situation can only be set right if clear rules are introduced and then strictly applied.