Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When the tick gets bigger than the dog

03 August 2011

The weekly diet of government corruption dished up by the Sunday newspapers and the Mail & Guardian nauseates. For instance, the story of Transnet's CE, Siyabonga Gama's receipt of R10m, despite having been found guilty of irregularly awarding an R18.9m tender to a security company linked to former Minister Siphiwe Nyanda, should propel South Africans into action.

The Arms Deal is growing like an octopus, while Julius Malema's alleged access to tenders for self-enrichment continues to astound. There just is no end to the stealing of taxpayers' money meanwhile our President is silent about the culture of graft that has come to characterise his presidency.

The municipal elections have come and gone and there is still no sign of President Jacob Zuma taking any action against Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. Shiceka is said to have used his influence to ensure that a R32m tarred road was routed past a house he was building for his mother in the Eastern Cape while thousands of residents in the area do not even have dirt roads to reach their homes.

He is also alleged to have stayed at a string of luxury hotels at taxpayers' expense, like his colleague, Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa. Shiceka, whose claims to have a Master's degree have proven to be untrue, might justifiably say that both accusations should long ago have been levelled against other politicians who like him are guilty of the same misdemeanours but who get off scot free. For instance, according to a court case in the Pietermaritzburg's High Court in January 2010, the current Minister of Transport, Sbu Ndebele, had a road to his country residence in Natal tarred at a cost of R5.5m (an amount recorded in the 2004/5 budget for the province).

If newspaper reports and court documents are to be believed, the five kilometres of tarred road stopped shortly after Ndebele's property, reverting again to dirt road. The local newspaper, the Natal Witness, reported that local residents and farmers had questioned why the nearby and far busier Tugela Ferry-Keate's Drift road had not been tarred or maintained given the dangerous potholes on the road.

Corruption has become so endemic that Shiceka's profligate lifestyle seems more akin to that of a Trappist monk if his record is compared to the former ANC speaker in the Western Cape Provincial Legislature, Shaun Byneveldt, who like his colleague Ebrahim Rasool, was rewarded with an ambassadorship for his sins.

In September 2008 the Cape Argus reported that Byneveldt had travelled to 51 countries since taking up the speaker's position four years earlier and that he had taken family members on some of those trips. According to a source at the Cape Argus, "...Byneveldt was ‘forever travelling' and seemed to spend more time out of the country than at work." The newspaper asked him what benefit had accrued to the taxpayer from his many gravy-plane excursions. Byneveldt's reply, after a week, was arrogant and devoid of respect for the citizens who funded his lavish lifestyle:

"The Western Cape provincial parliament and the office of the speaker in particular hereby reserve the right to respond fully to all and/or any matter raised in your aforesaid email when adequate opportunity avails itself, save to place on record, at this juncture, that the information you rely on, in a variety of material respects, is correct."

This contemptuous abrogation of the ANC's solemn commitment in 1994 to break with our apartheid past and to govern in a transparent and accountable way is a cynical response to our constitutional right to know how our taxes are spent. Shiceka could justifiably ask: "Why pick on me when the ANC has given carte blanche to its legions of deployed parasites in the looting of the public purse?" He would have a point.

From the Land Bank, to South African Airways, to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and even Robben Island, billions of rand have gone down the drain. And with every stash of money misappropriated, some poor community is deprived of a school, a clinic, or a park.

No quote seems more apt than the comment made by Zimbabwean Economist, John Robertson: "We imagine corruption to be like a tick on a dog. There are some places in Africa where the tick is bigger than the dog."

When that happens, the dog in all probability will die!

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