Finweek English Edition - - EDITOR’S NOTE - PEET KRUGER

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.


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